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Paper-Mâché Boat

Her storytelling is what guided me through the rainy nights. During these nights is when we could live the most. She would tell me to close my eyes and just listen, so I did. We traveled through the world, through new dimensions and worlds through her voice. She crafted us our own ship made out of paper-mâché with both of our names on it- S.S. Vincent Maria.

When the sun was out we had to hide the boat, our mothers would never allow such dreams to fester, especially not when those men came around. I would be told to stay in the kitchen, and read other stories while replaying Vincent Maria’s. Everyone in the town would gather their children and push them into the house when they heard the tires approaching. I’d ask if those men were monsters that talked to the devil, but Maria never answered. I never saw their faces, but I’d always hear “I’m here to collect your payments.”

Rainy days were few and far between, but with the rain came mud, and no truck in this place could withstand that terrain. 

When Vincent Maria would sail, I would lay my head on the ground watching the boat float on the horizon, behind, as if she were the moon pushing the waves, was Maria; her sun-kissed skin and long black dress. She told me that this boat could sail us to the island, where we didn’t have to hide, where the magic inside of us could be realized.

She never told me what magic I would have.

Maybe my magic could help my mother. Maybe then we could go to the island. But without the island, there was no magic and with no magic, there could be no island. I dreamed that one year it would rain so much that the town would flood and a river would transcend from the precipitation, leading us to the island.  

When the moon was the only light in town, we would meet at the pond and watch the boat float and I would lay down on her dress. I traced my fingers over the intricate designs of her dress and listened to her stories. The slow cadence of her voice was just above a whisper so as to not wake our parents. She would drag her delicate fingers across my hair as we sailed on our little boat. Our boat had been to so many places it was hard to keep track. I liked traveling with Maria. I just wish I had the chance to really see the world with her. 

She told many stories about the places we would visit, but none were as compelling as that with the Iron Lady she said there, on that island our dreams would come true. One time she told me stories of people from our town who went to the island and used their magic powers. A man could turn everything he touched into gold, so he became extremely rich and built a house that was brighter than the sun. Finally, there was Maria’s dad who left many years ago. Maria said it was for the better because he was very fast now so someday he’ll come back when the men do and fight them off but he’ll be so fast they’ll only see a quick flash and then they’ll be gone. 

“When will we leave this place and go to that island?”

“We can go right now if you’d like.”

“No, I want to go, really. I want to leave and never look back. I want my powers.”

Maria’s face turned white, the blood drained from her face. She always would go quiet when I asked about leaving, so I would just lie back down watching our little boat float to new lands while I remained in this one. 

On days when it rained, mother allowed me to go over to Maria’s house. But the fear that the clouds would dissipate and unleash the sun scared me so I always ran, even though she lived right next door. As I caught my breath, Maria would grab me some water. It was almost like clockwork, how routine it all was. I wish I could run next door and have one more cup of water with her- I’m so sorry, Maria. 

She sat in that house all day and decorated dresses. I still have some, you can feel the love she sewed into them. When I wear them, it’s as if she’s with me sitting on the wet grass, telling me a story of the island. She didn’t need to come to the island though, she was always magical, but maybe that’s why she never came. 

Ten years since I first heard of this island from her lips and her voice that carried a boat thousands of miles in a pond no bigger than our bed. It has been ten years since I was given hope that I wouldn’t have to hide in the kitchen at the sound of large tires on days where mother nature had cursed us with sun and no threat of showers. Ten years since I’ve dreamed of those great floods that would sweep us and our boat to that island, but now I’m on a boat without you. Ten years since I hid in the kitchen from those men, and now I run from new ones. Men in suits come to the door, rain or shine, but my mother is not here to protect me from them. Now, I realized those stories of the people who gained powers merely gained a minimum wage. But it’s been only a few since I came to the Iron Lady only to realize we never left our little boat and the Island didn’t make my dreams come true and the only magic I had was really you, Maria. I’m sorry we never truly left. I made it to the Island, only to realize it was just a pebble in our pond.

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