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The Magic Box

"The Magic Box"

I am on my way to the Magic Box. My post office box has been the "magic box" for many years. It never fails: I always have a sense of wary anticipation as I approach the box; almost praying that today will be the day. The day that I learn some unknown, distant relative remembered me in their will. The day I hear from friends with whom I have lost contact who were at one time my closest confidants and companions. The day I win the lottery that someone else entered for me. At least my mantra goes something like that. Therefore, the post office box is the purveyor of magic. Always hidden in the back of my brain is the secret hope that someday, my Magic Box will bring love.

I turn the key in the lock and find a box full of envelopes. Today is a bonus day. I pull them out gingerly, one by one, to make sure none slips to the back, tumbling on the inner post office floor, lost to me until some kind soul picks them up. I save a few steps by sorting mail right on the table with the waste receptacle underneath:  nothing but medical bills, credit card bills and the bank statements.

A slightly oversized envelope catches my attention, and I catch my breath. My pulse quickens, and I am sure my face is flushed. I have not seen this handwriting for many years, yet it is as clearly known to me as if I received letters every day. My hands shake a little as I tear into the envelope. Inside is the most beautiful card a heart could desire."Somehow, Somewhere, Someway" the card shouts on the outside with bursts of color exploding like a rainbow and inside, "Someday" in a true rainbow that fills the page. Why now? Why do I receive this card today, so many years too late? Does he still reach for me in some mystical, untouchable way, pulling me back to a romance that cost me so much and gave me so little? Even so, a smile fills my face, and a new light shines through my eyes. Why am I trembling inside?

I gingerly put the card in my purse, noting that a return address is non-existent. I turn the rear view mirror to look into my eyes, silly eyes, now filling with tears. Tears come quite often these days from inspirational stories, poignant tales in thick novels and lives unfolding across the wide screen. I try to tell a story myself and find my voice quaking in tears. Therefore, tears for my own lost youth and the love of my life are really quite rational.

Two different worlds: yes, our lives that once intertwined with forever written all over them split, like the mahogany tree that split in the hurricane, careening across the driveway, one piece still reaching for the sky, the other half requiring a saw to remove its many broken branches. The roots, fighting to hold onto their other half, lifted a piece of the cement, a point for tripping, a place to walk around, the fix more difficult than simply being grateful with each viewing that the hurricane did no more damage. Half the tree eventually filled out with leafy, green branches reaching to the sky again, nuts dropping in the autumn, appearing whole from the street. From my living room window, I see the tear on the trunk, the scarred wound, evidence of the missing half.

The trunk half that filled the driveway was subsequently rendered to pieces long ago taken away by trucks and ground into mulch. Sometimes that is how I felt, ground into the earth, all hopes and dreams that reached to the sky dashed. Like the little sprigs that continue to spring from the remaining root, I continued following new dreams. It just seemed that every time I was close to grabbing onto the rainbow, some little voice from inside declared, "it is not enough; I am not enough;" and sure enough, the illusive moment disappeared like the branch of the mahogany tree.

My love, however, he is like the half of the tree that filled out and looks better than ever from the road. He is a man who had the capacity to reach his goals, and he found many of them before we met for the last time. His very walk exudes confidence. He never doubts his worth; he commanded my love and attention; and I gave it without a will of my own. He planned his future meticulously; no detail left to chance, no stone unturned, no looking back as he walked away.

Today I have his card. Is it possible that I have struggled with my broken and crushed dreams, springing back over and over again like the proverbial bamboo, believing he found a life of perfection when, in reality, he may also feel the loss of the other half, carry the scar like my mahogany tree, the west side obviously missing its other half?

How will I tell him about my tree, that I think I know his secret? I do not know how he found my address unless he happened on my web site or Googled my name. These days, a Google brings lots of information about my recent novel and me. Although it is fiction, the heroine carries my emotion, my dashed dreams, my struggle for a "raison d'etre." The heroine finds excitement in traveling to exotic destinations and sailing on the high seas. She fills her life with a zest for living on the edge, ready to jump off at the next opportunity for an adrenaline rush. It is the dowdy schoolmistress that writes novels whose romantic fantasies take her to places she will never know, ecstasies she will never experience, dreams she will never fulfill.

Yet, here is the card. Here is tangible evidence that not all was a fantasy. Here is something I can touch and know that something in my life was substance: we were real.

Today, I received flowers from a friend, shared a glass of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider with another, and planned a day at the beach. The weather is exceptional; better beach weather is rare. The temperature is in the 70's though the Gulf is still in the 60's. A strong sea breeze is blowing, the palm fronds picking up the least little change in direction.

I drive toward the beach and have this overwhelming feeling that someone is accompanying me. In recent years, it seems these feelings are not unique. My friend's next-door neighbor was a kind and interesting friend to her and to me. The three of us had a season of nightclubs and little suppers out, enjoying a boisterous camaraderie that brought joy into our lives and radiated to anyone sharing our space. We danced the night away in the elite clubs and little corner bars. He died. He died and left us to our own resources for escorts and nights out, laughter and friendship. It never seemed possible that he would leave us. It was inconceivable.

I check my friend's house now when she is out of town. I check it out thoroughly before she leaves so if anything is amiss, I will notice it right away. Of course, nothing ever changes; and the house is returned to her intact. One time, I returned it to her with a chair turned out from the table. I called her that day. I walked through the garage door and into the kitchen and noticed the turned chair immediately. When my friend left, the chairs were all neatly arranged around the table. This chair was now, distinctly, turned slightly out, so the person sitting in the chair would see the kitchen.

I asked my friend if anyone else had a key to her home and might have been at the house and set down for a rest. She was adamant that I had the only key. She also declared that she remembered all the chairs neatly under the table upon her departure. Since I took her to the airport, our memory followed the same path. I told her I was going to leave the chair in that position so she could see for herself. I wandered around the house and found nothing else out of the ordinary. The carpet around the chair showed no evidence of anyone walking there, adding to the mystery. It is one of those carpets that shows an imprint from the tiniest step of a grandchild.

My friend and I caught up on mundane things after I picked her up from the airport: the weather, tennis, family, and friends. However, I finally mentioned the chair that had been weighing heavily on my mind for days. It is not just the matter of the chair; it is the feeling that someone had been in the house. That part I did not mention on the phone. I wanted to be certain that all was well when we reached the door. My friend entered first and immediately looked toward the dining area where the chair was still turned. She let out a small gasp. That was the chair her neighbor used when he came to visit. He would turn the chair toward the kitchen so he could chat while she continued with her activities. Before he died, he watched her house when she was gone.

She quickly returned the chair to its normal position. We joked that he came for one last check before settling into his new spiritual life. It was one last check because I never again saw any evidence of a visitor or felt a strange presence when I continued watching her home in her absence. I wonder, though, if growing older and approaching our own spiritual transition sometimes puts us in touch with the essence of a person in spite of their absence. As the physical reasons for loving someone diminish in value and the spiritual connection becomes the most valued, are we able to feel that person's existence even when they are not in our physical company?

Perhaps this spiritual connection explains how two friends who have not spoken in years pick up the phone on the same day to call each other. This is the explanation for waking in a dream to learn a loved one has experienced harm. Twins, separated at birth find their lives have followed concurrent pathways. Perhaps this generates the premonitions that we write off to instinct or experience. Perhaps psychics have learned to tap into this connection.

Maybe this explains why I received a card today. Perhaps he heard me talking to him as Valentine's Day approached. It happens every year whether I am in a relationship or on my own. I am at the counter selecting a card for my current love interest, and I feel a presence looking over my shoulder telling me none of the cards will do. None of the cards is true. I have never loved anyone but him. I push the voice to the recesses of my mind and struggle forward anyway, usually settling for something with a since of humor, feeling a bit like the heroine in the movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, so haunted by an apparition that real life adjusts accordingly.

I tired of new love interests and the pursuit of imitation dreams. I found zest in life unentangled and with a freedom that many years of meeting someone else's needs did not allow. Single is an opportunity to make new choices and forge new paths. I treasure each day for its innate worth and don’t worry about what lies around the next corner. I am, however, still alive. If companionship dropped in, I might just give it a whirl one last time.

The sea oats beckon, between the sea grapes and the shell covered sand. The Gulf is riled up today as the wind is blowing about 15 knots. My long hair is whipped in every direction, and my cap nearly flies away as I exit from my car. I am glad I waited until nearly sunset for my walk. A few clouds give the appearance that the sun is dancing in and out, releasing its last hurrah. I miss the powdered seashells that once spread along the shore, white sand so fine I could gather it to use for sand painting. Now the renourishment after hurricanes still provides a golden, sandy beach, with shells still lacing its edges; but it is not the same. Newcomers who do not know the difference call this a beautiful beach, a shelling paradise.

The full moon will rise over the condominiums soon, and I see the tide rushing out to sea, leaving a widening ribbon of flat sand and a lacy edge, piled with shells. I walk on the lacy edge, flatter until the tide is fully extended. I pull up the hood from my shirt and tie it under my chin. The cool wind whipping my ears makes them ache a little while the sun warms my body. Glasses protect my eyes from the blowing sand that grits a little in my teeth. I persevere. I will walk south, into the wind, and sail a broad reach on the return, the wind on my back.

Walking is a challenge for a while until I see the kites filling the sky, framed by the dropping globe of the sun. Their brilliant colors in half circles swooping and rising across the waves call to me. I move quickly down the beach, the kites growing in size as I move nearer. Now I see they are not managed from the shore as I originally thought, but figures in wet suits are racing across the white caps, leaping into the air, twisting and turning and dancing in circles then landing again, kites swooping down into the water and soaring high into the sky. They leap over the sun as the orb makes its first contact with the Gulf, spreading out like a Chinese lantern, setting the sky on fire. Please, please, take me with you on your journey of flight over the sun, cries my spirit.

Instead, I see they are bringing in the kites now, not wanting to be skimming the waters in the dark. The Florida setting sun heralds instant darkness: no twilight here. I chat with the wind surfers about their sport and today's wind. Whenever the wind is off the sea and strong like today, they are here. If the wind is from the east, they stay away. Even these daredevil sun-jumpers know that a prevailing wind to the sea could take a kite-boarder on a dangerous journey of no return. I am glad for their wisdom. I see in their eyes the same eyes I fell in love with so many years ago: the spirit of adventure, the excitement of danger, the heightened awareness of life and all it offers. No drugs are needed here. This is a sport that creates a rush that takes these adventurers to South America, Hawaii, the Caribbean and even Asia, following not the wave like the surfers of my generation, but the wind. They seek the perfect wind.

They found a sport that marries the wind and the sea. The kites are in, and we sit on the sand comparing skiing and sailing and kite surfing. They each try to tell me exactly how the winds are measured for perfection, the current impending cold front bringing a spin that gives them opportunities for tricks and turns more challenging than in a steady breeze. They all smile and gesture with excitement, enjoying my interest and a moment's rest after their exhilarating time across the waves. They suggest I try it; and I laugh. No, they assure me, I would not start on a day like today. We say our good byes, and I am grateful for the wind on my back as I fly in my own way along the beach, holding out my arms to catch the wind.

Yes, they reminded me so much of my love that I expected to see him step out of a wet suit, there on my very own beach. I felt his presence during the brief chat. I carry a little, black purse with my cell phone, a credit card, a couple dollars and the folded rainbow card. I pull out the beautiful card and smile. My haunting love, you gave me so little of yourself, and it mattered so much then. Even today, you send magic to the P.O. Box. I almost feel your hand in mine as I return, the moon now playing hide and seek with the clouds and replacing the sun to light the beach. A star is now visible, more to follow. You gave me the passion to experience the moon, the sun, the stars and the sea as never before; but you left me.

I am almost to the cross over. I sit in the scallop of the seashells and watch the evening birds jostle for their treats, the tide moving further out to sea. I hold my magic card in my hand and fill myself with memory, and then I let the breeze catch it and carry it off into the heavens where it belongs. I let my memories float along, too. Yes, my love, you sent the magic for today; a day of memories and you. What I didn't expect, however, was the result. The real magic is the realization that my life, too, is unfolding just as it should. Perfection will not arrive in the Magic Box. It's already here. I pulled out the little slip of paper in my pocket; there is still just enough light to see the phone number that represents my first kite-surfing lesson, tomorrow's magic.