The Fable of the Sea and the Desert: Part 1 - The Island in the Sea
The girl from the sea looked out across the sea that had once been her home from behind the bamboo bars. Though technically she was not trapped, this hut, and the island itself, felt like a cage. She knew that she could leave this island at any time, but still she remained. Though she knew that her true home was the sea, she had been here on this island for so long that she couldn't imagine going back to her old way of life, adrift in the lonely sea.
The girl from the sea looked across to the other side of the island, where the man who had created this island sat contentedly alone. She watched him as his eyes remained ever focused on the island birds in the distance and the aquatic life just under the surface of the water.
The girl remembered the day that she had first arrived here on this island, and first met the man who made this place his home. She had found herself pulled ashore that day, though she did not remember a shore existing before in this particular place upon the sea. Though waterlogged and weary, the girl was in no need of rescuing, for the sea was all that she had ever known. She had been adrift for so long now that land seemed foreign to her.
The girl remembered looking around just after she had been pulled ashore. She was on an island so small that she could see the water's edge on all sides. Something did not feel right about this island. It seemed to disrupt the natural currents of the sea. The man who had pulled her ashore stood over her. "I've been watching you from my shore for some time now," he said. "I thought that it was time I pull you in."
"I was perfectly content to drift upon the sea," the girl had replied defiantly. "What is this place? There should be no island here, marring the currents of my sea."
"This is an island of my own creation," the man had replied with pride. "I built it myself, with only room enough for me to reside. But you, you seem to be just like me, alone and drifting upon the sea. I could see from my shore that I can understand you in a way that others cannot. We are two of the same kind, I could tell from the first time I looked upon your face." And so, the man from the island convinced the girl from the sea to stay with him upon his tiny island, which seemed almost removed from the Earth itself, in time and in space.
The girl from the sea had built her own tiny hut inland on the island in which to sleep. It was a simple structure, constructed of bamboo bars spaced several inches apart, which held up a roof of palm leaves. The walls remained unfinished, as the girl did not have the energy to complete them on her own, and the man would not help her. The man slept near the shore, as far as possible from the hut in which the girl spent her nights.
At first, the man seemed genuinely interested in the girl. They talked from sunrise until sunset, when the man would leave the girl to set up camp near the shore. He did seem to understand her in a way that no one else ever had, and he made her feel as though she had known him for all eternity, though they had only just met. Though she missed the freedom and unpredictability of the sea at times, she was content to be here on the island with the man who had built it.
As time went on, the man who built the island slowly began to drift away from the girl who came from the sea and became more distant. He spent his days watching the gulls in the sky and the fish as they swam by, while the girl stared out listlessly across her sea, through the bars of her hut. The girl from the sea began to realize that she was only a temporary distraction in the man’s life, and he was growing bored of her. The time they spent together lessened as the man turned his attention to the gulls flying over the sea, though he was content to watch them from the shore of his island.
The girl began to long for the sea, but each time she finally got up the nerve to leave the island, the man told her time and time again that they were the only two of their kind in the vastness of the sea, and that she belonged here on this island with him. And so, she stayed, filling her lonely days with empty despair and longing for something that was always out of reach. If she were to leave, she would be entirely alone and left to drift by herself for eternity.
One day, the girl noticed that the palm leaves that made up the roof of her hut had begun to turn brown and wilted. She headed out across the island to find fresh palm leaves with which to repair the roof. The man who built the island was sitting near the sea's edge with a fishing rod. He didn't even notice the girl behind him as she collected leaves from a palm. As she retreated to her hut, she heard a splash as the man struggled to reel in a fish, but she did not look back.
Once she returned to her hut, she climbed onto the roof to affix the fresh palm leaves. But the existing roof collapsed as the barred bamboo walls fell. Her entire hut had been destroyed by one tiny mishap. As she pulled herself up from the rubble, she looked over to the other side of the tiny island where the man who had built the island still sat staring at the sea. He did not even notice the sound of the girl's hut crashing down.
As the girl from the sea removed herself from the debris, she was hit with a realization. Though this was an island of the man's own creation, she had been living in a prison entirely of her own making. She looked to the sea and started walking to the side of the island opposing the spot where the man still sat in his self-preoccupation.
The girl dove into the water and swam away, never looking back. Perhaps one day she would return to land to settle down, but never again to this island. Right now, she was content to spend her life adrift in the sea as she reveled in the freedom provided by the once-forgotten familiarity of the waves.
Read Part 2: The Oasis in the Desert
- The Fable of the Sea and the Desert: Part 2 - The Oasis in the Desert
Far from the sea, the traveler thought he had finally found sanctuary, but it proved to be nothing more than illusion.
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber