Swept Away

Dear Jacob,
I confess I sometimes want to forget you. Do you also?
I was twenty-five years old; you were forty when we met. Every year that has since passed, your place in my life has changed, and what I felt with you thirty years ago has metamorphosed from exhilaration to an undefined irreplaceable comfort.
I often set the clock aside and think of that night when we were swept away.

It’s eleven o’clock in California, and I write this letter in the belief it will never see the light of day. No one except you knows of the existence of our love. I still have the coral necklace you gave me and wear it when I am blue.
Do you remember you asked me why I loved you? I didn’t know the answer then but I know now. I loved you because of your gypsy ways, your estrangement from society. I loved you because you doubted everything. They said you were a beast, reckless, outrageous. I found you only generous and loving.
The setting sun had set the sea alight when you told me you had a family. I had one too, but I fell short. I did not want to sign you off, so I let you think I was free to love you. The glint of gold in the earring you wore in your left ear mesmerized me. You were aware how handsome I found you with your dark flowing hair, your brooding eyes.
We made love under the stars on that lonely island, and the passion of a lifetime seemed compressed into those few hours. We forgot who we were and let the tides sweep us away.
After I met you, I tried to read everything which had been written about the lives of the indentured Indians who came to these islands looking for a better life. Did your grandfather know that freedom would come at a price, and growing sugar cane for the white masters, his children and grandchildren would feed this land with their blood? You described your hunger when you stole a chicken and cooked it on a treacherous fire of sticks. The overseer discovered you and beat you until you could no longer sit on the bullock you rode to plow the fields.
Your life had been hard, but you were still full of hope for your children. You had put yourself through night school and found a job, but restlessness like in a chained beast still possessed you.
When I came out on the hotel terrace that night I was with other girls, but you were looking only at me. You recognized me in spite of my western clothes – I was someone from the country of your ancestors. You had never been outside of your island, but you knew there was another world where the free Indians lived.
A week became a fortnight but our hunger refused to be satiated. I knew I had to stop now because if I did not, I was never going to. The day came when I told you I was leaving your island, and I told you about this other life which was going to keep me away from you. You did not reply. You just looked away at the tumultuous sea.
You put the coral necklace you had brought for me around my neck.
I had nothing to give you in return.
I knew you’d never be allowed to come to the mainland. After I left I knew you tried to find me through my unlisted phone, searched for me through the memberships of the medical societies I belonged to, and you wrote to my alma mater whose ivy-covered walls protected me.
I never wanted to meet you again.
I wanted to remember us the way we were when we were swept away.

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