Short stories are a funny thing to write, when they are true, they seem fictional or else they would be longer and when they are pure fantasy it would seem they should be longer as well. After all, no one has short fantasies – or do we? Since this is confusing to me, I shall just say that this short story is a true fantasy. Ok – Ok, it is fiction. Further this is all original text. It has not been checked by me or editors for errors or mistakes in grammar or tenses or anything else. What you read is what you get. Maybe some day I will do something with it, in the meantime, it is yours.
A HOMELESS MAN NAMED MIX
Fishing on the Southern coastline of Aruba between the coast and the mangrove islands is great fishing some times and most of the time, it is a great place to watch turtles swim by. On occasion, a submarine floats by at half level with tourist eyes wide open staring out the window. Some passenger’s wave and forget that their arms are inside behind the hull and I would have no idea that is an ocean going salutation. Anyway, that area between the South shore of the island and the mangrove reefs is great fun in a small boat or dingy. I love it. Once while fishing there, I got close the reef banks and thought I saw movement inside the mangroves. Knowing that those mangroves are much to dense for humans, I just figured I had seen some shadow movement of the trees there and left it at that. Then it happened again. Not anything definitive but just something that was moving and when I would look, it was not there. This bothered me to no end but I knew that it had to be a figment of my imagination until at last, while baiting my hook and staring in the direction of the water, I saw it again but this time is reflected against the water. I looked up right away to see what it was and there he stood. He was tall and rib counting thin. He looked at me quietly and stood on one leg while he lifted the other leg so that his foot could prop against the shin of the standing leg. He held a long wooden staff that came from a cut off branch somewhere and my mind immediately went to scenes of aborigines in Australia. His hair was in “Dreadlocks” and he wore no shoes or shirt. There were remnants of an old bathing suit hanging on his hip and threatening to fall at any minute. I smiled at him and he stood motionless with the exception that the hand holding the staff allowed the fingers to wiggle in faint recognition of my presence. There was no smile or movement on his face – nothing at all. I decided he must be thirsty and looked down at the cooler I had brought. After grabbing a soft drink, I looked up but he was gone.
Hey. Hello there. Where are you? Nothing, not a sound or a shadow or a tall skinny man- - nothing. I went back and forth with the dinghy until the small motor had consumed most of the gas and then turned back home with this experience and nothing to show for it. I had never heard about him before and had never imagined anyone lived out there, but there he was – etched in my mind. Tall, skinny and holding a staff with one-foot lifted and resting against the others shin. It was a short but very long ride back. If there were any turtles or submarines, I did not see them nor was I inclined to look for them or notice them. My mind was focused on the man. I would go back; it was only a matter of time.
About one week after this happened I borrowed the small dinghy again and took off to the same spot where I had seen him originally. This time it did not take long, he made himself seen in about ten minutes. I tried ignoring him to see what would happen. I thought that letting him come to me would be best yet as if by magic, he blended back into the mangrove, all was still and his shadows, and any other trace of him was gone. I hung around a while and fished and finally turned around and went home. My single-word comment on this outing was “Damn!” (One of my more brilliant moments).
Weeks passed and I thought about giving it one last shot. So, out I went without fishing gear or anything else and just headed for the mangrove. I anchored as close as I could get and waited and it worked. There – practically on top of the small craft I was in he appeared noiselessly and grabbed the anchor rope and pulled me towards him. When I was close to shore, he waved me to get out and follow him into the mangrove. It was dense and suffocating but all of a sudden, we were in a small area that looked like an igloo made of mangrove. Inside, he sat and looked at me and waved me to sit on some folded blankets. We sat there for about ten minutes and then he talked.
Mi nomber ta MIX. (My name is MIX)
He told me about living there in the mangrove and how he had done so for many years. He explained to me that airplanes always flew over his head but that no-one waved. He told me that he had been alone for a very long time and that he was worried about the people on the mainland because he read (yes read) that there was global warming and that the water would rise and cover the hotels. After telling me this he pulled out an old newspaper and showed me the article. Now I knew that he could read. He told me that he was not well and that he knew he would die soon and that the sea was calling him to be there. He told me that if he died, that I would be able to tell because the crabs would live in his house. He said that he used to be lonely but now he was no longer that way since he had moved to the mangroves and that the lapping of the water against the rocks gave him peace. He told me that he wanted to be a secret but that after he had died I could tell about him. When he finally stopped speaking, I asked him what his name meant. He told me that he was born from a white father and a tall black woman and that since he was a child that he was only referred to as the MIX. When I asked him about his parents he told me he could not remember them but that they did not want him and that he left their home at an early age. I looked at his dread-locks and his blazing black skin. His nose was thin and straight and his body was angular yet he moved liquidly from one position to the other. I asked him why he was feeling as if he would die and he said he would and that he would swim to his coffin and as he said these words, he lifted a side of the structure and you could see the ocean. He pointed out to the ocean and said that he would swim to his coffin and that he would feed fish with himself because he hated crabs. I left it at that.
Moments later, he stood and asked me to do the same then he took me to my small dinghy and stood in his classical pose as he stared out at the island of Aruba. I started the engine and puttered back with a great deal of satisfaction. I made up my mind to write about him and to try to help him somehow. Focused on this one thing, I went home and started to plan my next visit.
After telling a friend of mine about this man and what I had heard him say, (he did not believe me of course) we planned to go out at soonest. The next day we did and I was able to find the spot where I thought I saw him last and where I felt he lived. I called his name out but there was no response. After doing this for about one half hour I decided we should go inside his small mangrove-thicket Igloo to make sure that he could hear us and to double check on his health. We got into the mangrove only to find the entire structure empty. There was nothing but the shell of what I had visited. As he walked out, my friend asked me if this was my tree-hut on the ocean and if I was just kidding around. I responded with the classical “Whatever”, followed him to the boat, and then sat as we silently went back to shore. We shook hands at the dock as he shook his head and smiled the kind of condescending smile that I hate. Then it came again. That priceless piece of prose. As I walked away I said – “Damn!” and added “MIX”. As the last work came out and the name of this trusting soul left my lips, I realized that I was expecting him to perform or to be there so I could prove something, and that is so very wrong.
The weeks passed and it all faded into a part of my soul that deals with memories, guilt and wonder. Every once in a while Mix would jump into my sphere of thought and I would see the image of this Aruba aborigine standing on a reef and then remind myself of how ridiculous this was and then push it back into those cranial innards for storage. Life moves on and that is a good thing but I knew that an excuse would arise and I would go back under different pretenses but not.
My son asked about fishing and I jumped out of my skin in letting him know what a fantabulous idea that was. He looked at me strange and I calmed down and said, “OK let’s go”. Off we went directly into the mangroves and I explained that there was great fishing here and that maybe we would meet someone. The fish were biting and that is it, yet as we left after hours of fishing, I thought I saw a shadow once again and it finally dawned on me.
The following day I headed out and before the name left my lips, I saw him standing nodding his head and I think I noticed a slight smile. I jumped out of the boat and we went into a new “Mangrove Igloo” of his and he started to once again rant. He did not talk, there was no dialogue and he did not rave. It was a steady water-like flow of his thoughts. I realized he had been holding on to them for much to long and that I was his receptacle for a life of loneliness and preoccupations. His insights were deep and to the core and made easy to understand due to his lack of complex words. Thoughts and ideas flowed and I knew at that instant exactly why. He went on about how the roads were build on the boulevard and how the many fishing yachts passed by and polluted the sea and on and on and on. At first I couldn’t find a thread to his logic since he went from one thing to the next but finally I realied it was about caring for his island and how he loved this place where he had made his home on the most intimate piece of land on the island. He slept to the sound of waves and stood facing the ocean during hard weather and heavy rain. He pushed crabs away because he knew that their scavenger instincts smelled death and he was not ready yet to go to his ocean-coffin. He walked me into the mangroves and showed me plastic cups and straws that had floated in. Much to his credit, he had separated them by the names on the cups and based on this, he had a healthy disdain for the hotels and party-boats. His mind held tonnages of thought and love and worry and it looked for closure since it was obvious to him that he was sick. He told me so.
Mix said to me “I am not well. Like the land I am sick inside. I eat wrong things. I poisoned myself to live like business men consume the land and leave little behind, I have consumed and what is left is what you see. I am tired and cannot be helped but the island can. Look at it and see if you can help me for I am tired now. Keep my home clean – can you do that?” I nodded. He continued, “My name is Mix and I come from parents of different color and live here alone on this small land. All I am is a story but never forget that This is my island and you are my guest. I sat silently and then without being asked got up and left.
Some weeks later, I went back out to the mangroves and immediately found his home. His few belongings were there and crabs crawled over them. The portion of this small abode that faced the sea had been pulled back and his torn bathing suit hung on a corner also infested by crabs. After all, crabs are the cleansing machines of our shores. His staff was in a corner and on the handle were carved four letters: TIMI. I held it and looked at it and smiled a sad smile. This Is My Island.
Who were you? Who are you? Why me? Tell me about yourself so that I can tell others. Who? I looked at the handle and saw the letters once again: