Lorelei, the voice
I awoke to a strange whispering before going to work at the insurance brokerage. I couldn’t quite make it out, but it was a woman’s voice calling to me. I walked straight into my job, quit loudly and righteously in front of a boss I hated, kissed his secretary, whom I’d been lusting after for three years, and marched out, triumphant.
I went down to the docks to watch the ships come in and met a sailor who said he was looking for deck hands. That day I left my condo, car, phone, gym membership, everything. As the ship lifted anchor, the world cracked wide open. I didn’t realize until that moment that I had spent five years of my life in the ranks of the walking dead.
For a long time I moved from port to port. Every so often I would meet a woman while in harbor and I would fall in love, get a job on dry land and attempt a new life. But time would pass and again I’d hear that strange whispering at night urging me onward, and the next morning I’d volunteer on another ship to Anywhere But Here. Only on the open water did the whispering quiet. Until I met Lorelei.
Lorelei was named after a beautiful maiden in German folklore who leaped to her death on the Rhine because of her lover’s infidelity. The rocks in that part of the river are shaped in such a way that, when the wind is just right, sailors can hear what sounds to be a voice calling to them. Shipmen, lured by the beautiful voice, invariably met their fates in the treacherous, rocky waters.
The daughter of a captain lost at sea, Lorelei had a tattoo of a mermaid covering her entire back. She had sea foam eyes that could drown any man. She arm wrestled merchant marines and bet on horses. She was a poker shark, a short con artist and a mother of twins who died during childbirth. At night she would cry for them in her sleep. Knowing her deep sadness scraped the barnacles from my weary heart. And for the first time in a long time, I lost my sea legs.
I tried to hold it down with Lorelei. I really did. I was happy with her, at peace. But, in a moment of weakness, I didn’t make it home one night. She knew without my telling her; she had cleared out all of her things by the time I made it home. Sometimes, two people in love develop a sixth sense for such things.
Ashamed, I searched everywhere for her—if not to win her back, then at least to tell her that I was sorry. But I never did find her. To this day, whenever I’ve stopped long enough to get comfortable and at peace with anyone or anywhere, I hear her whisper, urging me onward toward a place I’ve never seen before.
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