Hundreds of Drops of Water in a Sea of Cane
by Brittany Fulgione
I stand, barefoot atop of the hard ground, feeling every pebble pressing my sole, pressing back against me as I on them. The sky, so bright and blue as a bird flies over me, I can see him looking at me. He tells me that all he can see from up there is a sea of green, spreading in every direction for miles. He sees dark shapes below, scattered throughout the sea, bopping up and down.
-Take me with you, take my spirit so I can see through your eyes what lies beyond this great big sea.
He flies away, soaring over the tops of plants, wind flowing between his feathers, free. We see far off in the distance a fierce mass of blue. It does not sway lightly in the breeze as do the sugar stalks. Instead it smashes against rocks along the coast, smashing and destroying itself, then returning slowly back towards the great blue. Pebbles beneath my feet again, puncturing the underneath of myself, yet I can see the waves smashing and breaking. There’s so much beauty in that, I too wish to smash against the rocks, to break apart, to sink slowly back to something larger than myself.
The don calls my name. He points towards the cane field and hands me a machete. He shouts at me, and pushes me towards the sea of green. I don’t know what he’s saying, but I know he wants me to get back to work.
He watches me move from far above, drifting slowly back into the flow of the fields. I swim in, waist deep, neck deep, into the stalks, until they’re so tall I can barely see the sky. I drop slowly down, sinking my knees into the mud. I know no one can see me now, except maybe him, circling above the stalks. If I were to stay kneeling here for too long, long enough for the mud to dry, to trap me here- would anyone notice? Would they send someone out for me, or would they simply send someone knew in my place. This is my section of stalks to cut, but how long would it take before they notice that I have vanished, swept out to sea.
-What can you see from up there now?
-Waves of green, swaying in the wind.
-Have they sent anyone else for me yet?
-Not for you.
A car drives by on the long stretch of road by the fields. I wonder where it is they’re going. Can they see me, in my ragged black shirt, my ragged black skin beating under the heat of the sun?
I spend most of my days hiding in plain sight. When I’m sitting in the kitchen of the Don’s casa, peeling potatoes for his dinner, I wonder if his children can see past my exterior. They don’t know my name. I wonder where the bird is today, what branch outside he is perched on. When he is not here, I feel as though I am still stuck, knees plastered to the ground, drowning in the cane fields. My body is there, floating in remembrances of moments of my life. When he is not close to me, within my sight, or when I am unable to picture him in my mind’s eye, as it has been weeks since he has flown by to talk with me, I realize that I am alone. Do I still exist, kneeling here in the midst of an ocean of sugar, I know no one. And when he is not here, no one knows me. Do I exist outside of this sea even if I have never left it physically? I fly out with him sometimes, but I am always forced back, machete in hand, dripping in the sweet sweat of cane sugar, the stench of burning fields filling my lungs.