I swallowed hard, taking a moment to catch my breath. “I’m unsatisfied with my performance and her answer.”
“What was her answer?”
“She said that she didn’t date friends. In her experience, relationships had a habit of ending friendships.” I looked back out to the dark horizon for solace; I found a little more strength to smile through the tears as I recounted my experience. “But, she did say that she was impressed with my bravado and that she was proud of me.”
Galatea leaned in, the infrequent clicks her voice resonated down my ear canal. “You should be proud. You did the right thing. She knows how you see her; it’s better than living dishonestly until you ambush her with your heart. You heart can be a dangerous instrument, Stephen. Watch it, carefully.”
“I’m still unwilling to give this up,” I mused, staring out at the horizon. “People have such strange rules about keeping themselves safe and sane when something great could be standing right there in front of them.” I took a long, exasperated sigh. “I suppose my thoughts don’t matter in this case. There are some barriers I just can’t shatter.”
I could feel self-pity inching into my thoughts. What if Sara was just another in the long list of failures I’ve had up to this point? I didn’t want to think that way. I shouldn’t feel any bitterness toward Sara. However, it was there just the same. So I threw in shame for good measure.
Galatea sighed and the river replied by gently caressing the pylons. “I suppose the realistic truths are no good here: she is going back to California at the end of next year, you are far from prepared to rush out there with her, there are people here relying on you, and there will always be another woman.”
I turned my head slowly; a cold stare from my eyes seemed to have the telekinetic power to make Galatea step back. She knew better than to throw obstacles in the path of a crazed dreamer. However, the stare could not hold its venom, my legs quivered, and I fell onto the dock. I was wracked by another truth: Galatea was right. Now, I was hopelessly angry and flustered, a fantasy was turning to dust in my hand, and I was vainly trying to hold on to it. Without the fantasy, I felt that I was left with a void in my life.
“I have convinced myself that I do not know where to begin again,” I said, quietly. I buried my head in my hands. “I don’t know how to start chasing another woman. So much was riding on this, as foolish as it sounds. I walked into the den of failure, but somehow I thought I could win.”
The words were lies. I had now reached the point of blabbering stupidities. My mind had snapped; I could not bring my shattered thoughts back together. I needed help.
Galatea was undaunted. She regained her composure quickly and sat next to me. “Did you lose your friendship with her?”
“No,” I whimpered. “She said that this may have made our friendship stronger.”
Galatea lifted my head and held my face captive with her hands so that I could not escape her eyes. “So what did you really lose? You are being so honest right now, and I need you to dig a little deeper. I want you to see exactly what you have lost; I want you to see the silliness of your predicament.”
“What?” I didn’t understand. I tried to shake my head lose from her grip, but she was stronger than me. I didn’t know what she meant. I told her what I had lost; I had lost this one hope, this one fantasy, I lost a chance for love. “Wait a minute,” I said aloud as the lights came on in my head, “no I didn’t.”
Galatea pressed her face closer to mine. Her glowing eyes were peering into a deep recess that I rarely opened. What was hiding there was a shallow desire buried within layers and layers of assumed morality. However, it was still a part of who I was.
“No!” I exclaimed. “That cannot be why I am here with my mind so muddled with emotions.”
“No,” Galatea said, thoughtfully, “that is not what I meant. I asked you to tell me what you have lost. I am not trying to shame your love for Sara.”
But shame came nonetheless. There was a deluge of thoughts flooding the synapses of my brain. However, hidden in the deluge was some personal resolve, like a ship rolling in a stormy sea. Galatea helped me shine a light in the right place. “I lost,” I began with a stutter, “I lost the possibility for physical intimacy with her”—I swallowed hard— “to sleep with her.”
Galatea confirmed this one shallow truth with a nod and a chuckle.
“Shit, I’m worthless,” I said as a laugh spewed from my lips. I looked back into Galatea’s eyes. “I do love Sara. You cannot take that from me.”
Galatea smiled and she lightly tapped my thigh. “I would never take your love for Sara away. Listen to your own words. You still love her despite the failure of your fantasy from coming true. You have just done what few people have ever done.”
“What’s that?” I asked, still sniffling.
“You have just proven to me that you love this woman. You love Sara.”
“I’m not sure I’m following,” I said. I had banished all of my self-pity. Curiosity had overcome my sadness.
“You believed that you loved Sara. You felt this way for two years. Now, the situation reached a climax where you could no longer just sit back and let your ideas fester. You went after her.”
I raised a finger to object.
“It doesn’t matter how you went after her,” Galatea interrupted quickly. “It doesn’t matter whether you put the ideas out there as straightforward as you did, quoted Shakespeare, or kissed her suddenly. She said ‘no’. So we are here on this pier stripping away your agony and letting this fantasy drift away into the night. With the fantasy falling apart in front of you; do you think any less of Sara?”
I was suddenly mortified. “No! She gave me her honest answer; I mean she let me stay in her office until I regained my strength after my foolishness. We shared some laughs and candy, for goodness sake.”
Galatea smiled playfully and bowed her head. Leaning in closer, she whispered, “You didn’t need me after all.”
“I beg to differ, dear Galatea.”
“You never got angry with Sara.”
“No, I most certainly did not. Why would I? She has been by my side through some of my darkest moments. I could not say that I loved her if this little bump in the road ended everything. I am actually more frustrated with my mind; this event hit me harder than I had suspected it would.”
“Couldn’t that frustration be because you are saying goodbye to a fantasy?” Galatea asked. The stillness in her voice and her unblinking stare still made me uncomfortable. I was still fighting against the inevitable and Galatea knew it.
“I want to say yes, but I’m not yet certain.” I stumbled through the answer. “Logically, it all makes sense, but I have this desire still pulling at me; it will not cool.”
“It may never,” Galatea shrugged. “Is it your desire that is driving you so insane? Isn’t it just the thought that you are losing a chance at love?”
“I suppose, but we already covered that the only thing I lost was the chance to be physically intimate with her”—I snapped my fingers—“Romance! I lost the chance to have a romantic relationship with her.”
I let out an unexpected laugh at my epiphany and foolishness all wrapped up in a single night at a dock. “My love for Sara did not end tonight. In a way, I didn’t ask for it when I met her, but love hit me like a storm surge. And so did desire.”
“They tend to travel together,” Galatea interrupted with a nod.
“I have strong affection and compassion for Sara, which are the only feelings I can use to define love. No other words fit. I do desire her as well; to say otherwise would be a lie. I see her smile or her eyes sparkle and all of it comes tumbling back at me. I cannot avoid it. Why would I want to? Also, I respect the truth she gave me tonight and I will stand by her anyway. I am not destroyed; she did nothing to bring me down. It is not her fault; it’s the madness is inside of me shaking my foundations tonight. I cannot attempt to control her actions or possess her; those actions could never be love; that would only be the most selfish of desires.” I glanced up at the stars again. Tears flowed freely. The tears were not weighed down by sadness. They were more of a release of a dream that had turned to dust. I let it go . . . for now. “I lost a dream, a fantasy, nothing more,” I said quietly to the sky.
Then I turned to Galatea. Her smile was full of approval and affection. It was amazing how a child of the wild ocean could pass on such affection to a fool like me.
Galatea caressed my face with her wet, webbed hand. “Stephen, for most people, the fantasy they want to come true is more important than what they call love. When the dream fails them, they yell, they get angry or even violent with the person they supposedly love. It becomes a battle for control; people want their fantasies to come true so they attempt to control what they love. In the end they destroy those they love, never knowing love in the first place. So many people only dream, they never really see.”
Galatea wrapped her arms around me and held me like a lover while listening to a romantic song. She swayed gently, in sync with the waves caressing the pylons. “You reached out to her and you are still reaching out to her. You have lost a fantasy, but you have gained truth. Walk your road, embrace the love and friendship you have with Sara, and let the future unravel on its own. You opened the door, and she knows how you feel now.” Her embrace lingered.
“I have certainly gotten a good laugh at my foolishness, so I’m ready to face tomorrow,” I said, sheepishly.
I glanced at the full moon rising higher into the sky, as if it were controlling my future as well as the tides. I took a deep, wistful sigh. Nothing more needed to be said.
Galatea leaned in and whispered, “You are going to be fine, but I have to leave you now. I feel like playing a little trick on that fisherman down at the other end of the pier.”
I gazed at the fisherman still fixated on the water and whatever scrumptious treasures it held for him.
I strolled along the dock, heading back to the beach. “Have fun, Galatea,” I said. I turned around and saw her vanish into the murky waters. “Thank you, my dear love.”
Heading toward the beach, I heard the fisherman celebrate a tug on his line. I stopped, curious. I heard the whir of the pole’s spool as the line rushed out into the river. The fisherman nearly jumped in excitement over a big catch. His pole bent precariously toward the water as he fought with his monstrous catch. He was probably salivating, dreaming about the feast he would prepare with his great catch. His prey stopped running with the line, it went limp and the fisherman eagerly reeled it in. The line was just below his feet when it once again grew tight, caught on something below the dock. The fisherman couldn’t reel in the line any further and his pole bent toward the water with every great pull the fisherman gave. I heard him cuss as he looked underneath the dock.
From the fisherman’s angry screams and shaking fist, I knew Galatea had perpetrated her prank. “Again! How did the line wrap around that the damn pylon again?”
I heard laughter mixed with the groaning click of a dolphin out on the water.
The fisherman looked over the dark water split by the full moon. He shook his fist in useless defiance. “Damnable mermaid!”
I soon stepped on to the beach. My steps were lighter. Maybe I was a little closer to truth, and perhaps it did set me free . . . for the moment.
© 2016 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.