From the short story collection Fractured Hearts.
Truth is warm
But hard truths
make us run
make us hide
make us cheat
My view from this room has deeply affected me, like a painting that speaks to the soul through the artist’s brush. At first all I saw was the very average and dated décor. My disappointment grew when slipping onto the deck and observing how tiny the inlet was. There were native Hawaiians everywhere at first glance, reminding me I was not in a familiar place.
Slowly the view from my deck transformed. It began to display a vivid personality and intriguing depth, just as you did. The cumbersome black lava dock, at second glance, is merely a backdrop for the little boat-studded bay. Its activities upon even closer examination are one interesting event after another. Sailboats bobbing in their slips beside the dock have set my heart to dreaming unencumbered dreams that have no boundaries, no rules to fence me in. There is just ocean blending into sky as my thoughts soar unrestrained.
I have learned the mood shifts of this scene outside my window, created by the different shades of light and array of sounds, just as I know your moods by heart. Each dawn a rooster crows in the distance while pigeons coo in nearby palms. The sky glows a soft pink and hills beyond the bay shimmer in a rosy mist. Canoes and kayaks are neatly arranged on the early morning shore, and there is order in the peaceful dawn, where soon there will be chaos.
After the rooster quits crowing and the mist on the hill lifts, people begin to appear on the beach and along the dock. Skippers are preparing their boats to transport divers and fishermen out to sea, where they can renew their spirits. Each day they embark upon a different adventure and capture another memory to sustain them on the mainland, through stress-filled days of hectic routines, just as our stolen moments sustain me through the harrowing weeks without you.
By midday toddlers run in the shallow waves and lovers lay side by side on towels letting lotion-drenched bodies absorb the mystical powers of a tropical sun. Its golden rays knead out knots formed by a career of choice, spouse of choice, lifestyle of choice. The penetrating heat relaxes muscles constricted by daily duties that weigh us down and send us looking for where time stands still. Palm trees merge with sand and surf for one priceless therapy session.
Early evening brings a subtle breeze to lick at hot, oiled skin and clear out semi-conscious thoughts of selling everything you own and leaving everything you are to come here and be someone else, anyone else. The lights begin to glow in the lamps that dot the shore and line the dock of the tiny mystical inlet. Like a chameleon, the harbor changes color. It is sea green and misty blue at midday, fiery orange and crimson at sunset.
In the middle of the night I lean on the rail and feel as one with this setting, similar to how I feel when I am with you. The sprinkling of lights everywhere give feathery shadows to the palm leaves moving in the balmy, barely distinguishable breeze. Sounds are noticeably nocturnal. Hushed, reverent. Lush greenery rustles… swaying like a whisper. The tide is but a tiny ripple kissing the sand. Boats in the harbor are moored with creaking ropes that strain against the lapping sea. Silent twinkling stars light hills beyond the bay. Nothing stirs in the predawn but my imaginings.
A morning serenade from the neighboring rooster awakens me. Native birds are quiet, but soon will be a frenzied chorus in the bushes beside the path. Browned, barefoot people will scurry past the chirping birds, eager to put their toes in a frothy tideline. I know the routine well; the sights, the sounds, the life outside my railing on this beachfront postcard, beside the long, wide dock and glistening blue bay. It is holding me hostage for a fraction of time, an instant. It is a taste of what life can be at its height of rapture.
I have come to know your sounds and your touch, just as I know this bay. Memories of us tickle me like a soft tropical breeze. Who you are has melded into who I am, similar to this view, this inlet, this bay of sailboats silhouetting the horizon. You are my paradise. You fill me up with your poetry, as delicate and fragile as an exotic flower. It seduces my senses. Your hands on my body are like salt spray on the breeze and blossoms in my hair; caressing, arousing. Our love is like shimmering colors in the mist, with no hope on the horizon, as we dare to dream beyond where even sailboats boldly roam.
I lie near the shoreline where waves rush over me; foamy and glistening as they soak into the sand, just as I sink into your strong arms. This shoreline is my hideaway from the world… you are my retreat from reality. But it is only for an instant. It is fleeting, costly. We have lives to return to, loved ones to protect with lies that we must tell.
Why do we hide who we really are, what we really are all about? Why do we cling to images and illusions that define us through others, but not through our own eyes? How did fear and deceit come to rule us? What courage it would take to give up the falsehoods we hide behind, to respect others with our honesty.
We are cheating paradise.
What could be more foolish than that?
I am sad to leave this room and this view that I have grown so accustomed to. I will mourn the loss of my time here. I will never forget the sounds and the moods, the various settings of light and shadow. Like the back of my hand, I know this picture of perfection – these palm trees, lush hills, and bobbing sailboats. This harbor will live forever in my mind, only its details fading with time.
But the monstrous dark lava dock will remain crystal clear to me always, because it is part of the real world, the everyday busy working world. It is the link from fantasy to reality, the lifeline that clearly defines the truth of the matter. I cannot return again to your open arms, to our love that could only leave a wake of destruction in its path.
An illusion of integrity merely makes a mockery of it.
And so my love, this tiny picture postcard of our shared fantasy will sit unassumingly in the journal of my life. If I could write upon the back and mail it to your door, it would simply say that our contrived paradise comes with a cost.
And that price is more than I can bear to pay.
Cheating Paradise was a Writer’s Digest winner.
“This year’s contest attracted close to 18,000 entries. Kathryn Mattingly’s success in the face of such formidable competition speaks highly of her writing talent, and should be a source of great pride.” ~ Editor in Chief of Writer’s Digest
Visit Kathryn Mattingly at Goodreads