The Beachcomber

I dreamt of a beachcomber–

dragging its rake across the sand,

Removing life’s debris

Exposing jewels

of all colors and shape

Rising out of

breath-filled days.

Renoir, detail,

I wake to the delight of this dream, sensing my life’s work in this metaphor as my mind drifts back to a jeweled moment from the sands of time….

I sit in a single booth at the edge of the restaurant from where I make schedules and plan meetings and talk to staff.

My younger sister sits across from me. She is a waitress.  It has been a choppy summer with me as her boss–sinking back into familial roles, shouting back at me across the bayside dining room when I give a direction.

Our lives together have been similarly choppy. There was the time when we shared not only a room, but a bed, and I– at the precipice of puberty– could not tolerate the brush of her skin against mine. At ten years old (or was she nine?) Robin insisted on bringing her entire collection of stuffed animals into our double, crossing the imaginary line I drew between her side and mine. As the family Aquarian, our water bearer, she couldn’t imagine leaving her friends on the floor and so, it is she, who slept there instead, while they shared our bed.

And yet, we spent many a summer evening running our fingers over each others bare backs in a game that made you the “back scratcher” once you succumbed to giggling; and we took turns fetching cool water to pour onto each others pillow; and shared a wet washcloth to press against our foreheads in the heat.

When our family moved from the mountains to the shore, our lives drifted apart–separate schools, separate beds, separate rooms. As the oldest, I thrived in our move, as I was expected to do; and Robin suffered, coming home from school each day crying, until she learned how to navigate the social sail of pre-teen days.

We were both deep into our adolescence when our parents’ marriage began to silently sink. Our interactions turned violent. Heeled shoes flung. Chairs. Even scissors. In retaliation, I dug my nails down her back.  Drew blood.

We were rescued from this drama by distance—I headed off to college while she took over the wheel of what had become a captain-less ship.

When she visited me at school, the bitter winds between us had begun to die down.

When the final blow to our family came, and our mother began drinking again, Robin’s role at home grew impossibly large. For the first time in our lives, she reached out to me–and I finally opened enough to respond.

There were many sobbing calls to my apartment, and finally I placed an ocean between me and my family so that I wouldn’t drown. Robin visited me there too. I forced her to walk the Heath at Hampstead and she forced me to rescue her from the two bobbies she accidently picked  up at the night club in Camden.

But it was that moment in the booth at the edge of the restaurant on the water when our relationship took its final turn.

There at the end of summer –at the end of our innocence–we understood that we were the only ones holding on.

Everyone else had let go…

For the first time in my life, I succumbed to a tidal wave of grief, and it was my little sister who reached across the divide and took my hand in hers.

This is the jeweled moment when all that pained and separated us,

was swept away with the tide,

and what remained

was our shared treasure–

Each gazing into the others tender eyes…



Kelly Salasin