Angle to Key West: Siren (8/14)

A Random Rock on Lake Superior – August 14, 2012

Sirens do exist. I’ve seen one, I spoke to her, I ate with her, I paddled into stars because of her.

She wasn’t some half-bird singing from a rock, a nymph set to lure sailors into the sea. She never missed her chance at Odysseus or the Argonauts. She never appeared in a poet’s tales. She was just a woman in a purple bikini.

“What are you doing?” she yelled out to me from a rock.

It wasn’t the song Homer wrote about, but it worked just as well. I heard it and turned, paddled closer, then stayed for hours. I don’t know why. I knew the wind was against me and the nearest campsite was ten miles down the coast. I knew afternoons slip away fast and I needed to leave. I knew the water wouldn’t stay calm forever. But she wouldn’t let me go. It seemed like death to her somehow. Every time I picked up my paddle, she begged me to stay for just a bit longer, to talk about one more thing, to get out of the boat and sit on the beach.

“I’m afraid that if you go I will never see you again,” she said.

“That’s probably true,” I said.

She looked at me, her face still.

“That makes me sad,” she said.

“Nothing in life is forever,” I said.

“Are you a ghost?” she asked. “I think you are a ghost.”

“No,” I said.

“I’m not so sure,” she said.

Again and again, I went to leave, but again and again she refused to let me, so I got out of the boat and we sat on the beach staring at the waves. She told me that in a few weeks her job for the summer would be over and she would go back to study at a university in Jamaica.

“I will miss all my friends here,” she said. “We will never be together again.”

“That’s probably true,” I said.

“That makes me sad,” she said.

“Nothing in life is forever,” I said.

“I still think you might be a ghost,” she said.

I laughed.

“I really should go,” I said.

“No, stay,” she said.

I got up to leave, but she grabbed my hand and pulled me away from the boat and I followed, laughing, not sure why.

She led me up the hill and back to her dorm where her roommate had a pot of Jamaican curry chicken and white rice on the stove. I said I wasn’t hungry, but she made me a plate and handed it to me anyway. I ate while they spoke to each other in Jamaican and I tried to understand, picking out bits of the conversation as it went along, getting more from the tone than the words, like a song that I could almost hear the meaning of.

When I cleaned my plate and there was nothing left but two chicken bones, she took it away, and smiled.

“We can walk back to the boat now,” she said. “And you can leave if you want to.”

She said it as if she’d forgotten the hundred times she’d stopped me from leaving, the way she said I shouldn’t go, the way she pulled my hand and dragged me away from the water. We walked back to the boat and said goodbye. She climbed on top of a rock to wave at me from the beach, following me with her eyes until I disappeared.

I paddled into the night, reaching for that campsite and wondering why I’d stayed so long.

“Maybe she really was a siren,” I thought.

Then the water turned to black glass and the sky glowed with stars. For just a moment, it felt like floating through the heavens.

10 responses to “Angle to Key West: Siren (8/14)

  1. Super post. Illustrates why we can’t always stick to a pre-ordained plan, and miss these amazing encounters that will be etched in our souls.

  2. Its that Jamaican melody. English with a touch of mango and island breeze. It is so fine maan………………. Portaging never seemed so worth it.

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