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Swimming to the Sunset.
By Everyone Who Was There.

 

I want to tell you a story about my friend, and about a magical island in a beautiful sea far, far from here.

It is a true story, every word, and I can prove it because others know the story too.

Every year, when the cold wind blew and the snow was piled high, I would meet my friend on an island. We would fly from around the world, all night long, to get to the island where our friend was going to meet us. Sometimes we would get lost on the way to the island, but we always made it there. We always made it because the island was so important, and my friend more important still. There were times when I thought I would never make it back, but somehow I always got there to meet my friend, and all his other friends, on the magical island in the wild sea.

My friend was a big man, not tall, but big. He had a barrel chest and a deep tan and ragged feet with ugly toes like claws. His nose pointed and his eyes were always flashing, always projecting light, always blinking. He wore one ear ring. His arms were strong and his head was bald. I thought he looked like a pirate, or like a frogman from the navy. I liked him very much. He would stand on the deck and bark orders at us and he took us on a real pirate ship. I told you this story was true, and it is. I swear it. It was a real pirate ship with a pirate’s flag and everything. There were no pirates though, just us our friend and the rest of us.

When my friend and all of his friends, who became my friends too, would finally get to the island we would have outrageous adventures. We swam in the deep ocean. We rode from one end of the island to the other. We cooked fish on the beach and swam with dolphins and sharks and turtles and jellyfish. We would jump off cliffs into the sea and dance on the beach at night. He taught us things- how to swim, how to think, how to live. He always saw to it that we had fun and learned something, stretched our limits a little, always grew a little bit. It never failed that a man like this, strong and sure, has many friends. His friends were also smart, and we would tell stories late into the night. His friends are amazing too. They flew planes and chased crooks, they wrote books and made millions of dollars but acted just like normal people you’d meet at the store back in the real world. His friends do amazing things and have fantastic jobs in incredible places, the kind you only hear about in stories, but this story is true. He brought us all together there on the magical island, once a year.

One time, between trips to the magical island, I met a fine princess. I took her back to the island and married her there where the water met the sand as the sun sunk into the sea. My friend stood right beside me when we got married.

We would meet on the island, my friend and all of us, for many years, every year. Most all of us came back over and over. The island started as a fine place to visit but then grew into a more important place with every year that went by. We would listen to music, meet new people, write stories and run in the beastly heat with the sun blazing down. I can remember putting my head under the water and seeing an entire new world invisible from the top. At first we worried about what was under the ocean and then become friends with all the things under the sea, even the ones that bite and sting and dart about. The only problem was I could never hold my breath long enough to stay down there very long.

My friend gave us all this, and brought us all together on the magical island. When I very first read about the island from a story in a magazine I didn’t know how to say the name of the island, but my friend told me the first time I called him to ask about how to visit the island. He said it was called “kur-ah-SOW”; Curacao.

My friend got sick after our last trip to the island. He thought he was fine but he was sick. Because he is a strong man he fought and fought. No matter how sick he was, he would fight. His friends visited him and brought him root beer. He continued to tell them how to train and swim, even from his bed, and told them what kind of root beer to bring. Being the best of friends they helped him day and night, no matter how sad they were that he was sick, they helped him day and night.

He fought as hard as he could but he didn’t get better.

I remember the last time I was to the island. As soon as I got there I got in the water and started to swim. I swam out into the sunset with the ocean wrapped around me as a huge blanket of dark, warm water, filled with fishes and plants and squirmy things and life. I felt like I was home in that ocean, swimming to the sunset on our magical island. The sky grew darker and the water became quiet and black. I imagined all the things in the sea quieting down for the night as I floated peacefully in the warm dark water. Some people might be afraid swimming in the dark ocean as the sun went down, but my friend taught me not to be afraid and to love and respect the water, and the water felt so warm and good. I thought I could swim all the way to the place were the sun went down- over the horizon to a place that was always bright and warm.

I cannot swim as well as my friend did though so I got tired and swam back to shore.

My friend is a better swimmer so now I know he kept on going, swimming farther and farther, all the way to the sunset.

 

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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