It Came in Salt & Silence
I could not have been cast more to my advantage; it was a place where I had no society, which was so often my affliction, so I found myself in a peculiar kind of comfort… for there was naught that I might feed upon to my hurt or harm; nor savages to murder and devour me. In a word, my life was a life of mercy; and I wanted nothing to make it a life of comfort but to be able to make my sense of my own ingenuity. ● This text is an alteration of two sentences from Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. The resulting phrase is a reversal of the original context, which is as follows… ◾ With these reflections I worked my mind up, not only to a resignation to the will of God in the present disposition of my circumstances, but even to a sincere thankfulness for my condition; and that I, who was yet a living man, ought not to complain, seeing I had not the due punishment of my sins; that I enjoyed so many mercies which I had no reason to have expected in that place; that I ought never more to repine at my condition, but to rejoice, and to give daily thanks for that daily bread, which nothing but a crowd of wonders could have brought; that I ought to consider I had been fed even by a miracle, even as great as that of feeding Elijah by ravens, nay, by a long series of miracles; and that I could hardly have named a place in the uninhabitable part of the world where I could have been cast more to my advantage; a place where, as I had no society, which was my affliction on one hand, so I found no ravenous beasts, no furious wolves or tigers, to threaten my life; no venomous creatures, or poisons, which I might feed on to my hurt; no savages to murder and devour me. In a word, as my life was a life of sorrow one way, so it was a life of mercy another; and I wanted nothing to make it a life of comfort but to be able to make my sense of God’s goodness to me, and care over me in this condition, be my daily consolation; and after I did make a just improvement on these things, I went away, and was no more sad. ● Read the book.
A grey day spent inside the white house. It was not a room for children, but having survived four, it was understood to do so in perpetuity. In truth, most children would not enjoy the space. It was without stimulus beyond itself. Windows hung the width and height of the room. The uninterrupted transparency could have softened the sanctions that divorce outside from in, if not for the invasive brightness of white floors and white walls, broken only by the mathematical inducements of works of art hung in precise, gallery-dictated intervals throughout the room. The art was bold and vibrant and of the abstract nature which inspires the mind to intense deliberations. It was a room for thinking. The sleek lines and subtly off-balance designs of the modern furniture were hard and unyielding. There was no space for physicality. “Look but do not touch.” A collection of art glass stood defiantly on shelves of glass on top of glass. The display was alive with prismatic reflections and shifting light. It conducted a symphony of Siren’s taunts, tempting. But, no Siren’s song could compete with her high, shrill voice when it rang out with psychic-timing, “No.” And so the room survived another day and another child. In perpetuity.
The grey day was like all grey days, empty and blank without even the courtesy of lashing wind or storm to break the monotony. There was little to do but to sit on the hard green couch, idly fingering the teak wood trim and staring at the glass across the room, questioning for perhaps the three-thousandth time whether the crackles in the glass were smooth or rough or sharp like razors. It pricked my finger like Sleeping Beauty’s spindle. A red Nike tennis shoe appeared with a sudden whoop of exclamation and a deep thump that vibrated through the floor of the ajoining hall. She climbed down from a fold-away ladder. Her hair was wrapped in a kerchief. She was coated in sweat and dust and unselfconsciously stripped down to bra and slip. She walked briskly towards the powder room, then turned briskly on her heal to consider the implications of my presence in the thinking room.
She stared at me for a long time. Her expression conveyed, very accurately, her feelings about children and idleness. She glanced out the window at the grey greyness permeating the whole world. Presumably she searched for some sign or symbol predicting its defeat and the subsequent banishment of children to outside. Finding none, she pointed out the many entertainments available. “Many” referred to books (all read), drawing (all the good paper was used up), or sewing (too hot). She was not inclined to do the work of childhood for a child and so she shrugged off my indolence and left me to my own devices. She went to bath away the heat. I heard her clear soprano singing, “Ill’ Fly Away,” while she dressed. The scene of talc and soap pervaded the gloom. Then a thing happened which was most unexpected and really quite strange. The front door thumped. No one used that door. It was accessed by way of an unused parlor that bypassed the rest of the house. The thump was soon followed by the predictable clattering pattern of tires on the gravel drive. She didn’t check on me, instruct me or warn me. She just left. She left and the attic door was open.
Prohibition repealed. The grey greyness was suddenly less villainous. A profusion of vices did war against a field of honor. There was some indecision. The white room was so white with so many potentials to consider, but then there was the gaping maw of blackness open before me. Sleeping beauties spindle still called for me but the black hole growled my name. The choice was made.
It was a crematorium. Dry, unrelenting, sucking sweat. Dust grinding like powdered glass, cracking open forgotten scabs, greedily licking the blood from my skin. Itch of fibers scraping through gel coated sclera. Growling, groaning drone of the beast in the attic, greedy for a false moment, a weakness. The boxes scattered along the coarse, rough-hewn boards without purpose or care. It was a din of lost things and dead things and latent monstrosity. And I was brave. I journeyed. I suffered. I persisted; dug with soft hands through crackling refuse and endured the revolting, alien scratch of brittle legs and sharp teeth to prize out the relics of the past. It was piled around me like a fortress. I cracked brittle seals and blew away dust of ages. I sat, hunched in the corner. It came in a rush salt and silence that settled wholly around and lingered to shatter in the howling furry and lashing whip of the storm.
The attic fan threatened and hissed and spit warning strikes of needle sharp insulation in time with the stinging rain of the storm. The heave/ho undulations scrambled my stomach. I clung tight. Bones outlined in skin when I fought to hold my place, but I was not strong enough. There was a moment of buoyancy. I had the absurd thought that I could fly, that I would just spread my wings and keep going on and on forever. I think I laughed out loud at that. Then I feel and struck with tremendous force. The sound was the same sharp crack I heard when I broke my elbow on the ice of the skating ring. The pain was the same as well, but greater without expression. I had no breath to scream. The black water enveloped me. There was no time to do more than squeeze, hands and eyes, to compress all into the center of myself. I became a ball, tossed back and forth by the waves. Each time I could not hold another moment, I did. I sucked in stolen air and held another volley. It was endless until the end came and sand grabbed my feet. I lunged forward, enforced step after step until I couldn’t and then I collapsed, still clutching tattered edges.
A wet tickling feeling woke me. There was blood dripping down my arm, staining the pages. I wiped it on the edge of my jean shorts, hoping it wouldn’t stain. My hair was soaked. It stuck to me like a net. It tasted like salt. I stretched and turned, and tried to find a comfortable purchase on the slanting boards. There was no comfort to be had. The heat built walls around me. They were too hard to climb. My toes searched for purchase in the barnacle crusted wood. I wished I had not lost my shoes, but that could not be helped now. The only thing was to put it out of my mind. Survival depended on it. I dug determinedly into the side, and gave a strong kick with my arm stretched high to grab the bit of rope that dangled tantalizingly close. overboard. I had a thought to the sea creatures that undoubtably made their home in these parts and dismissed it. My survival depended on it. I lunged again, three times and finally grabbed hold and hoisted myself hand over hand to the railing of the ship. It was from there that I heaved myself on board and earned my first respite. The ship was remarkably intact at the stern, thought the bow lay almost submerged. I made my way to the store room where I was rewarded with a barrel of hard biscuits.
My stomach heaved and settled. It was that queer feeling that comes on when the body is too weak to eat but so weak that it must eat. I was at once ravenous and also fearful of vomit. I considered the bowl of morning cornbread and the jar of cold buttermilk I knew where downstairs in the refrigerator. I wanted to go and get them, but it was such a risk! If I went, I might not be able to get back. She could be home by now. I listened carefully for any signal. A sharp whistle caught my attention and I quieted. I pressed my body against the nearest tree, became as still as could be. Why was my breath so loud? My heart beat echoed in my ears. The sound came again and pierced the silence. A shriek, otherworldly. I grabbed up my prize and bolted. My feet beat against fallen palmetto blades. I tripped once, twisted my ankle, skinned my knee, but did not slow. It was dark and I became aware of a sinister presence. A chill invaded the heat and I shivered against it. I could not see it but I knew that it was close and I knew what my fate would be if it caught me. A burning weakness assaulted me. Fatigue was my enemy. I pumped my legs harder until I saw the dappled light that indicated the division between wood and beach. I aimed for it with a vengeance. I left across the shadow and burst through the assembled foliage to collapse beside the peacefully babbling creek.
I waited for my heart to slow and my breath to return. I squinted and my vision spotted with dots of color as they adjusted to the new reality. I opened my eyes. The sun expelled the shadows and drove away the threats. It was then that I understood. I beheld the source of my otherworldly terror and was overcome with dismay and compelled into hysterical apoplexy of laughter. It was naught but a parrot, a large number of which inhabited the island on which I had found myself marooned. It cocked its head so that its large black eye looked straight at me. It laughed once and let out another wild whistle and chirped out an eerily accurate, “Destin, Poor Destin.” I laughed again. “Poor, Destin. Poor, Destin.” it landed nearby, speaking with more urgency, “Destin… Destin – where are you?”