Ten-minute freewrite from today, based on a prompt by the inestimable Jena Schwartz.
I bought one and stole the other, and not in that order.
Eyes, they are called. Oculi. Thick wooden rounds incised and painted with a star and crescent moon. Affixed to the bows of the wooden fishing boats, dhows, so common off the coast of East Africa. Looking out and across the sea to ward off evil spirits and danger.
I was in Lamu, a town on Lamu island, in Lamu archipelago, in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Kenya. My boyfriend? Lover? Amorous pen pal? I still don't know if ever we figured our terminology out. It didn't really matter, although it seemed to, then.
Anyway, he, a Peace Corps volunteer, and I, the pal to his pen, had flown east on a tiny puddle jumper for a few days off the mainland in a mysterious, enchanting place.
I was falling in love/lust/wanderlust romance with the tan, pony-tailed man who'd brought me here, who fed me fresh fish curry, and held my hand as we walked throughout Lamu town with its erratic electricity supply and dark corners and the joo-eece (juice) stand near our inn.
But I'd flat-out given my heart to the creaky boats that listed dramatically when the tide went out and stood back to attention when it rolled lazily back in. The dhows. And that is how I found myself scouring blinding white beaches for their skeletons one August afternoon in 2001.
I told him I wanted an eye to remember our trip. Like so many men who, when faced with a "problem" work like hell to "fix" it, he did. We finally found my treasure, hanging from a tetanus-promising nail coming loose from the dhow's sun-bleached, time-worn hull.
But whose was it? Not mine, certainly. But could it be? We wrestled with this quandary for what was probably not long enough. Romance won, the promise of memory won. He pried it loose and placed in on my palm. Possessively, my slender fingers curled around it. Mine.
In town later, I bought another. To "cancel" out my theft? To make amends? Have a matched set?
Neither love nor lust made it, but the memories did. And so did my eyes. They hang on my library wall now, tokens of adventure in what seems a lifetime ago, under a framed photograph of a working dhow, floating upright in an azure sea.