Saltwater Sorrows


There’s a boy in my village who behaves like an old man. He sits, silent and reserved in a corner, looking toward the village gates while other children run and play, causing mischief.

I do not know his name, nor do I believe he has one. I have never spoken a word to him, and I doubt he even knows who I am. I watch him twice each day as he goes to the beach and stares out to the ocean for two hours and returns to the village with his head down.

He does this when the sun comes up and when the sun goes down, every day without fail, rain or shine. He stares at the waters as if waiting for something – or someone. 

I watch as he removes a golden locket from his neck and stares into it, tears flowing into the sand. Even a hardened old bag of a man like me gets choked up from the sight, especially since I’m the cause of the boy’s pain.

You see, normal people walk by and think nothing of the boy with the locket, but they don’t know his story. Not like I do. 

I am not proud of my past. I was the saltiest pirate of them all, or at least I wanted to be. Since I was a child, I admired a band of pirates in the village. When I was 30 something years old, I worked up the courage to approach them. I can still feel my nervous knees shaking from that day. They were a rowdy bunch who never smiled and looked at me like I was the scum of the earth. But the captain was different. 

He put an arm around my shoulder and blew cigar smoke in my face. I choked and fought every urge to cough the smog from the lungs. He told me I could join his crew, but I had to go through an initiation. 

We sailed out that same night. We anchored behind a boulder and watched as a young couple said goodbye to their son on the shore, likely promising him they would return in a few hours. They sailed off. We followed. 

The captain handed me a knife and jerked his head toward the ship. His desires didn’t need explanation.

I dove into those waters, invaded the boat, and climbed back on our ship, covered in blood that wasn’t my own. The men slapped my back and cheered. We celebrated and I ate more that night than I have in my life. 

The happiness faded when I returned home and saw the boy. He seems to appear wherever I am, as if by chance. My heart drops whenever I see him. He never speaks to anyone, and only indicated his desires with hand movements and shakes of the head. I can never stand to be in the same room with him. I watch him from afar instead and although it was so long ago, I still feel the weight of his parents’ blood on my hands. 

I’ve thought of approaching him on the beach to tell him that his parents would never return as they promised, but I can never bring myself to do it. I’m afraid of something that I can’t identify. Is it the ghosts of his parents or is it the little boy himself?

My past haunts me in my nightmares, and when my eyes are open. No matter what, I see the boy who waits and wishes for a dream that will never come true.