Favorites, The Heroic Life

The Ghost and the Sea

At the end of my adventures you’ll know where to find me. An old man with white chest-hairs, a hat and a cigar. Living in some place I walked through when I was younger: some seaside village that doesn’t know who I am.

I’ll spend my days the same, one after another. Drinking in the morning and swimming in the sea. I’ll walk into town for coffee, reading my old fashioned paper book. I don’t even like paper compared to digital, but I’ll read it, because the sensation brings back memories and anyway it bothers the kids.

An Argentine steak, or else skip lunch and just walk among the village. I’ll know people by name and they will know me by sight: the old foreigner, a little crazy but all foreigners are, he seems safe enough.

When they talk to me I’ll ask uncomfortable questions. Do you believe you have a purpose in life? The question is awkward because I know their answer before they do. I’ve asked it a thousand thousand times, in other villages and in much worse places. It makes it more awkward but also easier to answer. They can see in my eyes that no answer will bother me and anyway I already know; so they’ll unburden themselves and feel a little better. The old man isn’t so bad.

I’ll stand on the docks and never fish, sit at the fountain and never chat, except to talk to young women. I ask them about their hopes. I tell them: never believe a word from your dad or your boyfriend. They smile. Leave me alone, grandpa.

But it’s the evenings, the evenings where I come alive. My house is small. It’s on the beach. You can hear drum and bass music. There are no pets and no clutter and a sign that invites passers-by in for a drink. Passers-by won’t do it, but it’s okay because the internet tells travelers that I’m here for them.

When a backpacker arrives I’ll pay a neighbor with a car to go pick them up. My email says a friend of mine will pick him up. The neighbor doesn’t say much at all. The drive is short and quiet. When he arrives the backpacker will see me pay for the car.

Oh, he’ll say, you didn’t have to do that. Please, let me get it.

And I’ll stare at him till he worries he offended me and then I’ll smile.

No, I’ll say. I know why you offered, but you have no money. I used to have no money. You only offered because you felt you had to, and I know how relieved you feel when I say no.

If you’re going to travel, I’ll say (because the poor backpacker won’t have an answer), learn how to spend your manners. Spend them more carefully than you spend your money. Because money can be replaced but a lost opportunity never can, and the whole world wants to help you, you know.

I’ll lead him into to the house, or her if it’s a she, and I’ll try my hand at cooking. The only time I still bother is when I have company, because it’s only fun to chop things if you can talk while you do it. And we eat and the surf comes in, and I offer rum and beer. I’m always happy to share rum and beer.

And this is how I’ll spend my days: showing kindness to young brave people, loners and couples and teams of them, however they happen to roll into my village. I’ll hold back my stories, because this isn’t about me. It never can be. Let them have the sun. But after a cigar, when we start to feel the chill and people check the time, if any of them stay to keep talking so late—then I’ll tell them a long story. I’ll say what it was like to meet the gods.

If I live a long time this is how I’ll age, and I’ll never get sick of it. But I won’t live so long. I’ll never see my house by the sea, never unburden the villagers or talk to the girls. The backpackers will find somewhere else to stay, and they’ll never hear what it was like to meet the gods.

I’ll die a young man. A smiling ghost will sit by the sea. At the end of my adventures you’ll know where to find me.

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23 thoughts on “The Ghost and the Sea

  1. Amy says:

    I’m suddenly overwhelmed with an urge to watch Rum Diaries again. I don’t know why, since your story is so peaceful and HST was anything but peaceful, but there you go.

  2. Thank you everyone. It felt good to write it. Making my peace becomes easier and easier. Life fencing, but at yourself instead of others.

    Special thanks for sharing/reblogging it.

  3. Now we will have none of this dying young stuff. You will live a long life , and grow old and grumpy just like the rest of us. Then you will sit and tell tales of wonder for the young ones that stay late by the fire.

  4. You made me weep again… but I still feel happy. Whether you’ll be an old man or a phantom, I’ll take a trip out to that shore and be that crazy lady who talks to all the animals, trees, and rocks, who sings to the wing and laughs. Heh, heh, hee! LOL

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  7. Kassandra says:

    a Oide, you know how I feel. I hope you find happiness and wish that your adventures never disappoint. At the same time, I don’t feel a bit of remorse for having my own human emotions of selfishness. You’re the last living father figure I have. You’re the only one who’s actually wrapped his arms around me while I wept. Even my father and step-father never did that for me. Neither of them really cared for my interest in music (my biological father literally blew off listening to my CD right in front of me and complained about having to listen to “that noise”), and certainly had they known my spiritual beliefs they probably would have had a few things to say about it. I carry a lot of bitterness for the father-daughter relationship I never had. Honestly, you’ve been much more emotionally and spiritually supportive of me than my father and step-father ever were. I would say “forgive me for being jealous and upset that you’re leaving,” but I don’t think I really want forgiveness, and I feel no guilt or shame for having that selfishness. It’s mine, I have no problem with owning it. It’s just the way things are, and I’m going to have to accept your choices whether or not I like them, and grapple with the possibility that I may never get to see you again.
    Just know that I love you so much to be this upset. For now that will have to suffice.

    • That’s really moving to me a Dhalta. I have a sense of how much you’ve struggled with “your dads” and I’m glad I’ve been able to be here for you in whatever degree I have. I also appreciate how dedicated you’ve been to the Old Belief. Thank you for that, and don’t worry, this young traveler will take damn good care of himself…

      Happiness is in the traveling, not the destination. Love it the first time.

  8. I’m interested in your experience of the ‘and yet’, Drew. How do you feel the ‘and yet’ on your body? Does it stir your passion? Does it make you tremble? Does your breath fall like a stone, or rise, stopping in the middle of inhaling, when you hear it, ‘and yet’? How do you ‘think’ it, if you do at all, against the background of your certitude, and peace, and spiritual pacts? Thank you.

  9. So, the oracle tells you that you are going to die when you’ll be 46. You embark on an adventure for two reasons: (1) to get the most out of it before that, (2) to meet the gods. Suppose you won’t die at 46, in which case, it would be nice if you could get it confirmed, perhaps beforehand, that the gods don’t exist beyond what you make of it yourself. You create the gods through your actions, including the action of training yourself to get a sense of other people’s gods, if you take the time it takes to look at these people. This latter part is the most rewarding.

    BUT, here’s what I think. I think you’re cleverer than that, cleverer than all of the above. So, we start again. The oracle tells you that you are going to die at 46. You stop in your track as if hit by both, the moonlight and the sunlight. At the impact, you may even think that you are tall tree, so you say: AND YET there’s life. The oracle talks about death and all you can think about is life, life as ALL; Life that puts an end to the end in the meanwhile. The AND YET is a case of the ‘meanwhile’ – someone should write more about the meanwhile.

    Say, your lover comes to you she says: ‘we’re done.’ You take that death too – you’re done, after all – AND YET. You may be done, but in the process of burying the relationship, you process some more. What you process is not death itself, your separation, but something else. It’s a specific type of knowledge that you arrive at, and which the experience of the space of the meanwhile confers on you. Initially you think that you file this information somewhere in the back of your head, so that you can be ready to move on – such idiocy – but what really happens is that you work on the ‘meanwhile’ while in the meanwhile. The meanwhile will make the difference, not your decision to accept her decision, and move on – Christ, the clichés, how I hate them, even if I can also get soft in my knees sometimes.

    Now, the oracle tells you that you’re going to die, and you find yourself feeling the meanwhile on your body, beyond any other constructions. The AND YET is in your breath. There’s not time here, so thinking numbers is not what you have in your head. Since I think you’re very clever, I’d stake my own head on the possibility that if the oracle’s information did something to you, it was not at the level of exclaiming: ‘Wow, I’m going to die at 46. Cool,’ or even more idiotically: ‘ Wow, I’m going to die at 46. That’s something. I’d better do something about it. I’ll make a plan. And then I’ll live my life to the fullest.’ No, Drew. I’ll stake my head on it that you didn’t have any of these reactions. What I believe is that you saw the AND YET unfolding. So, let’s hear it: How did it feel on your body? Give me your passion, Drew, if you don’t mind. I’d like to hear the sound of your crash, so I can marvel at how the clever ones manage to live poetically.

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