The Ferry Woman who took me to the Island had tattoos on both her arms, the patterns reminded me of the sun, but I think they were actually dieing worlds; worlds that I felt I should know.
She didn’t face me, she didn’t speak to me and I was glad for it. There was something ruthless and determined in the way she guided the barge across the Duwamish. She was fighting the tide all the way there and she was winning.
She brought us to shore and motioned for me to leave.
As I stepped from the barge to the Pier I saw she was pointing away into the darkness and I was able to see more tattoos on her arms, I saw trees etched into her skin and on the trees were little red apples that looked like splotches of blood.
I don’t remember hearing the sound of the tide or the winds or of my own footsteps on this Island.
There was no air here.
” What is this place? ” I asked and before she turned her head to answer I hopped off the barge and away from the pier. I realized I didn’t want to see her face or hear her voice.
I felt I’d almost made a serious mistake and ran blindly up the path and away from the black waters behind me.
When I came to the cave with the torches out front, I took one down and carefully stepped into the darkness.
The figure waiting for me was wrapped in its death shroud. That didn’t surprise me, that didn’t bother me. What scared me was the fact that I knew who was under it and they wouldn’t show me their face.
I could see the figure turn its head away from me, as if it didn’t want me to look at it.
” Who are you? Show me your face ” I said.
The hands lifted the shroud away from its face and it was my Aunt Sharon.
I could hardly recognize her because this was the face of my Aunt who should have who should have been.
The one I never got the chance to know.
It was not the face of a woman who died in hopelessness and despair. This was not the face of a woman who drowned all of her pain and torments in alcohol.
” I don’t have much time, I’m afraid of the Ferry Woman, I think she wants to leave me here. ”
My Aunt nodded and she smiled. Clever girl, the smile said, that’s my girl.
” Did you mean it when you’d said Dreams never come true? ” I asked, ” Did you really believe that? ”
” That wasn’t me Anita, you know that. You’ve known that all along. And I don’t believe it. I didn’t believe it then either. Every time I saw your face and heard one of your stories I didn’t believe it…I couldn’t believe it. ”
My Aunt motions me over and hands me a Tiger’s Eye stone. ” It’s just for luck you know, to remind you I’m always watching you. That’s all it is Anita, a token. The real token I’m giving you, that’s inside of you now… in your heart. Remember that. ”
” Do you forgive me? ” she asks as she hands me the stone, ” can you forget what I said, and can you let it go? What I said about dreams and hopes? Can you forgive me for saying that? ”
” I miss you every single day Auntie, ” I tell her, ” and I’d never let one word or moment we had slip away into nothing. They’re my memories and I love them all. Okay? ”
She’s smiling at me as she puts her shroud back over her head and I step forward and with a Mortician’s Hands I wrap her again as gently and softly as I can. I adjust it over her shoulders and smooth it around her waist and hips.
That was my gift to her… my goodbye. The thing I couldn’t give her before.
The ferry woman is waiting for me on her barge and for my Aunt as I step aboard I look it in the face and say, ” take me home and don’t screw with me. ”
The ferry woman laughs soundlessly and as we sail back towards Duwamish we sail with the tide this time…with it.