“The boat to Paradise is leaving now. Do you want to come?”
Erica stood there as she mulled over the unexpected words.
She had only known darkness her entire life – the darkness of her dad leaving her mom, her mom later committing suicide, her older sister becoming pregnant and abandoning the family at the age of 16. Erica had only known loneliness and the fear of overcoming her loneliness. She had met great people through the grace of God, sure. But these people had only played temporary roles in her life before they too had to be called to continue their lives in other dimensions. She had learned to become self-reliant at an early age, and – despite the crack head obstacles that had been thrown in her path – now had a good job and roommates who mostly annoyed her but nevertheless helped her pay the expensive rent in the nice area of town that she now lived in. But as she began to climb the ladder of her personal success, she knew that that wasn’t enough.
On the other side of her voyage would be a tall and handsome man or woman who would await her, marry her, and for whom she’d bear beautiful children. These children would later grow to become a scientist, an engineer, and the future President of the United States.
But here, the question the captain asked her haunted her because she knew that it would release the ghosts of her past which she had spent her whole life trying to bury.
“The boat to Paradise is leaving now,” the captain reiterated, impatiently looking at his watch. “Do you want to come?”
Erica knew that if she got on board, she would ride through many thunderstorms which would include endless hours of therapy, many years of tears, and ultimately a newfound confidence and outlook on life that she never knew she had deep within.
But she didn’t want to reach into the cobwebs and release all those tiny creatures that threatened to invade the peace of her brain.
The horn sounded for the last time. People boarded but there she stood. Paralyzed in eternal contemplation. The words echoing in her mind.
“Do you want to come?”
He was going to save her. The night was black, the forest green, his armoire silver. As he advanced steadily through the woods, the light of the moon served as his only guide. The silence was occasionally pierced by the soft gallop of hooves, and the neigh of his horse whenever he tried to slow her down. Hurry, he thought. I must save her.
Sandra sat on the cold, clammy stone floor. It was dark. A sliver of moonlight filtered in through the hole at the top of the rectangular space. Faint drops of water kept falling in the distance, forming a puddle somewhere nearby. One…two…three…, she counted every drop that she heard. Four…five…six… The hour was coming to a close. Soon, it would be time. The rope swayed back and forth in the gallows with each blow of the wind. She tried to remember the events that got her there, but her head was hurting from all the bruises, and everything up until then was nothing but a big blur…
They met one day while they were both working. She was from America. He was from Italy. She had no friends in Lupiri, and neither did he. She was getting along pretty well and was equally friendly with everyone at the job, until she noticed his accent and decided to greet him with the one word she knew in his native language, “Bongiorno.” “Bongiorno,” he always responded, each time becoming more and more intrigued by her. Finally he said to her one day, “You’re very curious, you know.” “Why?” she asked. “Because I never met anyone who wanted to learn Italian.” Well, I don’t really want to learn it, she thought to herself, but he interrupted her thoughts and continued, “Why don’t we create an exchange? You teach me English and I will teach you Italian.” It was an easy enough proposition, so she said “Deal.” And so it was.
They met each other for lunch every day, and as a token of his appreciation, he began cooking for her almost every day. They began taking coffee breaks together. She would call him during the workday, and upon answering his phone he would only say, “I’m coming.” In two minutes he would be at her office door, which was only down the hall from his own. He would take a break just to walk her down the hall to the coffee machine when they didn’t have time to take a longer break. They joked in the hallway. People stared or thought whatever they thought. And yet they laughed anyway. He began taking her out to dinner, restaurants, and places to go out on the town. They received stares. And one day, they fell in love. But what they didn’t know, was that their love was a crime. He was White; she was Black.
At first, people just stared. Some tried to deny them entrances to certain establishments. Still, they laughed and they loved. One day, a bystander had decided that he had had enough of witnessing a crime in progress. That evening, the police came to her house to ask her if the allegations were true. She stated that her love was real. They asked her of his whereabouts. She denied knowing them. After all, they did not live together. The police stated that they would take her in for questioning. She responded that she had violated no natural law, and that she would not go. They told her that if she resisted, she would be forcefully taken away. Her fists were no match for their batons.
Three days had gone by since, and she had not had a chance to communicate with him or the outside world since she was taken. She had no idea if he knew where she was or what happened. But she knew that the time was coming soon before he would ever get a chance to find out from her what led to her disappearance. The drops kept falling like a ticking clock: seven…eight…nine… The rope continued to sway with each blow of the wind.
C’mon! He thought. Faster! He screamed in silence. If they heard him coming through this heavily guarded terrain, not only would his life be lost, but surely hers. He was traveling through no man’s land. They did not know that in all honesty, it was she who had made him the man that he was. She.
"I am ready for love," he said. The gallops pounded louder.
The door opened.
His breaths grew more shallow.
“Alessandro!” she cried.
“I’m too late,” he muttered loudly. “It’s getting too late!”
“Alessandro!” She cried.
The man moved closer.
Her screams echoed throughout the blackness. The man forced her up and pushed her to walk closer to the edge of the gallows. Looking out over the abyss, she looked high at the white lights dotting the sky...