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Hippocampus

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The plump Bahamian woman with the thick gray dreadlocks that hung down her back to her waist, wrapped in a floral pink towel, held a black snorkeling mask she found in an abandoned store in Rock Sound and a green beer bottle filled with water. The wharf through which she walked was empty save for the children playing in the American businessmen’s harbor condominiums and daring each other to jump into the clear blue water with the black ten-foot lemon shark which meandered between the yachts.

A few of the magnificent multi-story ships blazed and flashed in random yet swift angles as did the incoming rock in the sky, now the size of a ripe coconut.

Her dark eyes did not stray from the road ahead of here as she circuitously stepped around and over the potholes and thickly weeded cracks in the poorly laid asphalt. As the people in dilapidated vans usually missing their doors raced around her, they likely remembered her as the smartest woman in the town, and they watched her trudge in her slowly heating black sandals. They also knew she was headed where everyone else on the impoverished southern half of Eleuthera was headed: Lighthouse Beach.

She reached the end of the road where the paved track turned sharply right and ran up the slowly rising hill scattered with shacks among the palm trees and island brush in the nutrient-starved soil. Up the road, below the deceptively cool blue sky with the slight reddish tint, a school bus turned sideways into a yard and blocked the street. Faint voices like happy ghosts emanated from the sand path into the brush where the paved road ended and headed to the beach.

The woman followed this path slowly, making sure to stay close to the ferns on the sand and shell road, traversing through the forest and around small, mosquito-infested lakes. When she reached the beach, decorated with tall palm trees, seemingly containing their own breeze in which to blow, she intensely observed the light blue water rolling with large waves and listless people, practically everyone on the island. She drank all the water she had left and threw the bottle into the underbrush. This was the place where the world could end naturally.

The sky was red when the woman put on her mask and swam out to the shallow reefs off the white cliffs of the rock escarpments over the beach. The reef was largely dead, but the woman knew what she was looking for and where to look. And when she found it, her inner agony was shattered with a small smile. She saw the scarlet anemone, speckled with yellow and white and home to a single, floating, seahorse. He was bearing children, some of the last children of any species on the planet. He was the color of the sun at noon and tinier than the claw of a conch.

The thriving spot of the reef was the same as it had been when she was a child. She was now able to grasp the memories that cataclysms stole from people. Everyone came to this beach because it was their dream world, where their memories were made and, unfortunately, often left.

Images of her past now came back to her. The days at the Rock Sound sinkhole jumping in from the small surrounding cliff and seeing the huge blue angelfish scatter underneath, dogs from the nearby neighborhood jumping in to cool off, their owners likely surrounding their dying air conditioners. The merchants at the market who practically threw pieces of conch at locals to offer their wares. The days watching the sunset when it still rose and set.

Everything she knew exuded from the seahorse in front of her, that strange fish of equine name, that lovely creature which relied on the surrounding rhythms of the ocean for its grace in motion, that animal which knew that living was a privilege and dying was a right and all we could do was beat on in the current, futilely skipping across the colorful broken glass of light until we fall down.

She was satisfied. She knew when she looked up from the water that this moment, everything over which to reminisce, would be with her forever. When she surfaced the memories scattered in the universe, and there they floated for a long time before new beings used them to compose new memories.




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