I never knew Him

a short story, by Sha’Tara

I wanted to know him, but I never did.  He worked for my parents at the house on the Estate.  That’s where I spent my time when I wasn’t in school, or college.  Year after year.  I grew up, he got older. 

I was raised by wolves, you know what that means.  So he was my life.  And now, they’re all gone.  The wolves finally ate each other and their prey died, possibly of boredom. 

He cared for them, though he cared for me the more.  But he was so careful around me, careful to always have somebody else with us, near us, a witness, so that should something untoward happen the wolves wouldn’t blame him, and eat him.  I never blamed him for being careful; for protecting himself.  And so, I never got to know him.  He was just there.  And then like that, and suddenly, he wasn’t. 

I won’t try to explain in words what it means for a twenty-two year old pretend woman to be left adrift and alone after swimming her entire life with sharks and being forced to hunt with wolves.  I didn’t like either roles but I did not pretend hard enough, meaningfully enough, that I was an exception, an actual human being.  Perhaps being alone now, completely out of the limelight, rich, and with only one uncle as would-be guardian – he’s barely aware of my existence – I can finally become what I was born to be.  Hello? Can anyone tell me what that is? Listen to my harsh, sarcastic laughter!

In the back of my mind, there is an image, or perhaps it’s a mirage. 

A blue-green sea casts its waves upon a dun shade sandy shore.  Palm trees move in the afternoon breeze blowing all along that shore.  Sometimes I see a colourfully dressed woman with a young boy walking on the sand.  The boy bends over frequently to pick up things.  Once I watched him from the house’s balcony.  He was picking up starfish and flinging them back into the waves.  The woman, probably his mother, or guardian, walked on ahead slowly, oblivious of the stranded starfish.  It reminded me then of a story you’ve all heard; a story that haunts me today. 

It’s about a little girl frantically running up and down a beach after a storm, picking up starfish and flinging them out to sea.  A man, watching her, came to her and said, “There are so many stranded, you can only save a few.  What difference can it possibly make?”  To which the wise girl replied, as she flung another into the waves, “It makes a difference to that one.”

It’s easy to forget that lesson.  I’m twenty-two and what do I know of life?  I know how to use money to get what I want.  But do I know what I want?  That’s the problem: I don’t, not really.  Sometimes, I think bitterly, if I were a Barbie doll, I could buy myself friends, maybe even a boy friend.  But I’m much, much less than a popular doll.  I’m a rich no-one with fangs; one who knows how to snarl and chase prey in the shallows.

It is summer now and even in summer, there are storms.  Sometimes the waves are cavernously deep and as they approach the shallows, rise in high combers, their wild palomino-maned surf crashing and thundering all along the shoreline.  On such occasions I like to run down there and stand just out of reach of the surf as it crashes, runs up the beach, then slithers back for another attack. 

Then with heart beating, I walk down, barefoot and bare-legged into the pushing and pulling roiling waters.  Of course I’m looking for answers.  And in those brief moments I get to put my loneliness on pause.  When I see a starfish on the shore I pick it up and throw it back in the waters, hoping it will not be washed up again.  Yes, hoping.  Then I think about my life, beyond its hellish peacefulness and dulling emptiness.  And how it keeps getting washed up on the shore and is as helpless as the starfish to do anything about it. Who would pick me up out of sympathy perhaps, and cast me in my element?

I asked him once about loneliness.  He’d noticed it in me and I know it made him sad that a young girl could be so alone in the world.  I asked how he could live there, in that… that house, alone year after year.  He’d explain that he didn’t just stay there.  He had family and friends among the fishermen in the village.  I wanted to go with him to meet his friends, or to make my own friends in the village but the wolves forbade it.  They’re not our kind of people, said my mother, baring her fangs.  You could be kidnapped for ransom, said my father, turning and blocking the exit.  The house is safe, and there’s enough space on the estate for you to wander through without danger.  We’ll get you a horse, and a trainer.  I didn’t want a horse and the trainer would be another short-lived diversion.

Do you have any idea how lonely it is to be property? To be an estate slave with no purpose whatsoever but to fill a void in someone else’s life? A convenience, a trophy, even if never first prize, being of wrong gender? Let me give you a piece of advice before you throw yourself off a cliff, or the fake battlements.

If you ever feel truly alone you want to go down to the sea shore when the wind tears up the clouds as they whip over the half moon, say around midnight, and you want to sit on a wet rock to just listen to the waves crashing in, one after another, and between each one, listen to the water hissing back down into the roiling darkness.  That is the sound, and the feeling, of the heartbeat of the lonely; the truly lonely.  That is the heartbreaking echo of utter loneliness. Only then will you know, for an inescapable fact that your fate is sealed; alive or dead, it’s all the same and it will not change.

If only I could give my life a purpose.  Join the throngs of others going on about their business of struggle, survival and periodic pleasures.  Using my own wits instead of my cursed inheritance of family money.  Using my own hands to create, or just make, something.  Maybe sit down beside a homeless woman and try to feel what she feels. What if my hands could actually hold someone without crushing them? My lips kiss another and my fangs remaining retracted?

These are my thoughts today.  You see, it was his funeral yesterday and I’m just now beginning to realize how truly lost-lonely I am.  I would like to do something outrageous right now, but my mother said, they’re not our kind, and my father, it’s too dangerous.  And the only person I ever trusted, ever loved, was buried yesterday.  I couldn’t even attend his funeral, I was afraid.

18 thoughts on “I never knew Him

  1. Hyperion

    This is such a poignant story and so well written. I find it relatable in many ways. I wasted a great deal of my life fearing loneliness and somewhere that changed and I feared not being alone after that. Adaptability is a double edged blade at times.

    Reply
  2. George F.

    Holy smokes this is a bit different for you and really strikes a chord…I’ve experienced deep, punishing loneliness myself for the past few years…with dark, destructive thoughts…so I’m going to take your advice…rather than hurt myself with chemicals…I’m down to the sea shore at midnight…and I’m going to listen to the waves crashing in, one by one…and experience the heartbeat of the truly lonely. This story moved me like nothing else you’ve written. And, oh yea…what Hype said!

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Photo: I changed mine by mistake – I was playing with a second site (not sight!!!) and nothing was working out. One site kept copying into the other and I got nervous thinking I was going to wipe out this one, LOL, what confused stuff this WP can be. Anyway, changed it back, but a bit different. I flushed the new site.
      So, you have an ocean/sea by you? Or speaking metaphorically? How I would love to live closer to the ocean… it’s 60 miles from here, and even so, it’s just bogs, extended beaches and filthy from garbage and massive commercial developments. For the real ocean you have to go a way up the “Sunshine Coast” west and north, or cross over to Vancouver Island, and trek along the western shore. It’s beautiful there.
      Thanks for that warm comment, George.
      PS: still collecting all the segments of your novel and avidly reading – thought you’d want to know. If ever you want me to purge the “Paul’s Story” folder, your wish is my command. It will be gone.

      Reply
      1. George F.

        I live a hop skip and a jump from the ocean. No purge necessary. But keep in mind most of the early drafts will be discarded if I ever make it to round 2. I’m flattered, btw.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        It’s really my pleasure. By keeping each post I can never lose the thread. With me it’s more the AI-human aspect. I do think I wouldn’t mind being an Akira, providing I get to keep these current accumulated memories and my awareness. I would want to keep my own human mind. Wouldn’t want to just turn into a machine, robot or sex toy. You have a great story going there, primarily because you are tapping directly into our future as a mutated and much more advanced race of ISSA beings (ISSA: intelligent, sentient, self aware) That is what we were designed to be, and what we actually are even if most are not brave enough, daring enough, bold enough, to live according to their nature, relying instead upon a faulty and failing programming. Mark my words on this, it will become more and more obvious… exponentially.

      3. George F.

        Thanks Sha’Tara. I am now motivated to continue, as my motivation, it seems, waxes and wanes like the tides…

  3. sherazade

    Un racconto molto coinvolgente Purtroppo credo che la traduzione italiano non sia affatto buona Questo è un vero peccato.

    Shera 🌷

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Shera… Interesting, I thought about you when I posted it and I knew it would be difficult for the translator – many “figures of speech” and perhaps unusual imagery involved in the story. How I wish I knew Italian!!!

      Grazie per aver commentato, Shera… Interessante, ho pensato a te quando l’ho pubblicato e sapevo che sarebbe stato difficile per il traduttore – molte “figure retoriche” e forse immagini insolite coinvolte nella storia. Come vorrei sapere l’italiano !!!

      Reply
  4. selizabryangmailcom

    A very lyrical self-examination and analysis. There’s a lot of contempt for “poor little rich” girl or boy stories, but I’ve experienced the alienating imperiousness of the elite and the negative emotional results, so the pain and isolation is real, along with a constant questioning of one’s purpose and identity. The ocean’s immense power and cycles of death and rebirth are a comforting reminder of the bigger picture.

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you for that in-depth comment. The elites; the rich, suffer from a different sort of pain than do their victims but they are not immune from the common sorrow of living on Earth. Though they may get some servile adulation, they must suffer to loss of whatever sympathy and empathy that normally flows towards the downtrodden – a real loss, however much it is never accounted for.

      Reply

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