I returned to the town on the west coast from which I had started before my journeys. I took a job in the office of an import, export business. I oversaw the merchandise at the unloading and loading on the docks and kept track of the inventory in the warehouse.
I frequented a restaurant at the harbor. There was a beautiful, young waitress there who waited on me. She seemed to give me special attention, always filling my coffee cup. She asked me if I wanted raisin bread for toast even though she said the cooks did not like her running raisin bread through the toaster. She said the raisins got stuck in the toaster. I said yes more to please her than myself. I was generous to her with my tips since her attention to me was rather flattering. Sometimes she would give me a glass of orange juice for free. She was going to the local junior college and studying business.
I lived in a cozy but tiny apartment in the harbor with a view of the docks and ocean from my window. I loved to wake up in the morning, drink coffee and look out of the window. I loved to breathe in the fresh, sea air. My whole life was in the harbor.
I decided to take classes at the community college after work. I took a beginning business class and a creative writing class. When I told the blonde waitress that I was taking classes at the city college she looked at me strangely.
It cost a pretty penny to take these classes. I struggled with my finances. The students in my creative writing class appreciated my work but the teacher was overly critical. I tried to satisfy the teacher’s criteria but I felt that he was jealous that he did not have the experiences to be able to tell the stories that I did. At one point he said words that implied that my stories were too fantastic to be believable. I suppressed my anger. I had to remind myself that my goal was to just make it through the class. To my surprise he gave me an A in the class despite his criticisms.
I had hoped that by going to the city college I might run into the blonde waitress and actually see her someplace else besides when she was working at the restaurant. This never happened. It was a little depressing going to school at night in the winter when it was dark and cold. When I awoke in the morning all I could do was drink some coffee and try to make it to work on time. I had to grab whatever snack food I could to make it through the day. Fortunately the harbor had its amenities. There was a hole in the wall restaurant close to work where I loved to buy fish tacos.
I told the blonde waitress that I had finished my classes. She seemed very interested in the things I had to talk about. She seemed especially interested in my creative writing. She would ask me questions about it.
After a few more months of working and trying to save money I started to pressure my bosses to let me take two weeks of vacation so I could visit my mother. They weren’t happy. Finally they agreed to one week. I took it.
Soon I was on an eastbound train. I arrived in the little, land bound town with rolling green hills. I had spent a lot of time wandering in the woods here all alone. When I found the house she was not there. I was told that she had passed away. I returned back on the train with a little package she had left me. In it were my birth certificate, baptismal certificate, some report cards from school, honor roll certificates, my baby book and photographs. I stared out the window of the train at the countryside passing by. Would I ever pass this way again?
I reported back to my job on Monday morning. I was told I was not needed. When I asked why I was told that my job had been given to someone new. This was not an answer to my question but the real reason was obvious. I had dared to stick up for my rights and ask for some vacation time. When I had previously asked for a raise I had been told that business wasn’t so good. I knew that this was a lie because I had overheard the owner telling his brother that their accountant had told him that their profits had never been better. I knew this was because of me and my high level of professionalism. My knowledge of the import, export business from my years of working the freighter ships was what made me so valuable.
I went to the harbor restaurant. The blonde waitress was not there. I returned to the restaurant the next morning for breakfast. She was not there again. I thought this was unusual. I asked about her. I was told that she had graduated from school and had gone back to the inland town that she came from.
I found myself on the same familiar pier again looking at the ships and gazing out to sea. I found myself once again wandering aimlessly along the narrow lanes of the waterfront. I came to a narrow lane and looked along it to my right. There was the curio shop, three shops down, on the left side of the lane! I wasn’t in a mood to question. My mind had been sullen. I walked toward the door of the curio shop. Inside I saw the oriental carpets, tapestries, silk, carved wooden figurines and beads. These were things I now knew too well from my travels in the Orient.
The elegant, Oriental lady was there again standing behind the counter. Once again I looked at her with her perfect oval face and curious smile with her lips sensuously turned up slightly at the corners of her mouth. I gazed deeply into her dark eyes. She did the same with me in response. I don’t know why but I reached into my inner coat pocket and pulled out the talisman. I asked her if I could sell it back. She nodded and said she could only give me half of the original price that I had paid. I said, “Okay”. She took the silver talisman from my hands. As she put the bills and coins into my hand she held the soft skin of her hand against mine for a moment while looking into my eyes. Then she drew her hand back and said, “It always comes back”. She smiled and bowed her head a little. All I could think of to say was, “Thank you”. She nodded twice and smiled. She looked off to the side so that I admired the beauty of her face in profile. I walked away to the door looking back at her over my shoulder. I went through the door to the world that was waiting for me outside.
To be continued.