I don’t often wander along the beach in December because the cool winds howl incessantly and tear at my thin black coat. But this Thursday evening, about 7:15 a bottle caught my attention, dipping and bobbing across the crests and sliding down the troughs. It seemed destined to be opened by someone and since I was all alone I thought it might as well be me. I know the time because the tide was coming in, the last fishing boat was pulling into the harbor, and the lights in the old weathered restaurant just off the point had gone on, signifying open for business. The time would not be important except the beach was deserted and I could wait patiently for the bottle to drift in. It seemed hours before the bottle finally tumbled onto the beach but I hurried over and snatched it before the waves could take it back.
I carried it up to road where I could look it over under the street light. It was apparent the bottle had been in the water for a long time and I guessed it had traveled a long distance. Curiosity made me look closer. Inside was a note. “Another one of those teenage pranks,” I thought. “One that says boo, or I made you look, ha, ha.” With a corkscrew I pulled the cork from the bottle. The cork fell apart. Carefully I removed the note inside and unfolded the yellowed paper.
Slowly I read, “Dear Melinda, I see a rose among the thorns. You quicken my pulse when I think of you. You have a tender heart that sparkles with life. I see the complexities of being your friend and knowing the relationship can go no further. It hurts me to know you don’t love me. Saying no to my proposal cut a deep wound in my heart and silently I’ll bleed and try to ignore the pain. I’ll always love you. And do you know why? It’s because you’re so easy to talk to and so fun to be around. Perhaps I don’t always know the right things to say or I’m awkward about the things I do. Yet you have a way of putting me at ease and I like that I don’t tell you how I appreciate the kindnesses you do and the way you treat me. If I tell you that you’re beautiful too many times it could get old, although each time I see you I’m impressed both by your inner and outer beauty. You’ve been blessed and I know I’ve been blessed for just knowing you. I should tell you that sometimes my heart beats quietly and when you appear my heart pounds within my chest. In psychology class I learned that the one who loves the least or cares the least has the most power in a relationship. I feel no shame in caring so much, willing to be vulnerable, willing to take a chance. Suffering will only sharpen my understanding of love. If you could someday return that love I would be very happy. I cannot stay close by because it’s driving me mad. I’m off to the land where herons and alligators play. Perhaps I can forget you. But I think not. I know I will return just to see if you missed me.
May the love of God continue to grace your home.
If there had been addresses or phone numbers I would have tried to make contact. I felt I had intruded into their lives. I should have let the bottle drift and be found by someone who could ignore this letter. Yet there was nothing that could be done. Time had passed and I had no starting point. For a few minutes I stared at the outgoing tide and wondered if I should send the bottle back on its way. Instead I carried it with me back to my car. “Tomorrow,” I said out loud, “I’ll see what my friends think.”
(to be continued)