Salty Prayers – by Marcelo Medone

Everything happened very fast. In a matter of minutes, somewhere halfway between Aruba and Puerto Rico, a fierce storm scuttled our Bandido Negro, taking my friends Jesús Gabriel and Fernando down with it. An enjoyable fishing excursion turned into a nightmare with me as the involuntary protagonist. Sadly, those who have died are well dead. But for those of us who have survived, suffering and uncertainty await.

I have received a bath of humility. Now I am a poor man alone in the vastness of the Caribbean. Fortunately, I was able to salvage a canister of water and a bundle of empty drums, which are helping me quench my thirst and providing me some buoyancy.

My tongue is parched and it burns. Tears and salt cloud my vision. In addition, the heat of the sun is unforgiving. Only at night do I have a respite from its harshness.

Moreover, my empty stomach growls, groans, and jerks with painful cramps. In five long days, I have not found anything to eat. What’s more, I am afraid of running into a shark that sees me as a desirable prey. In the exhausted state I’m in, I couldn’t even put up a fight. A quick death would perhaps be a blessing.

Still, something inside of me urges me not to lose hope. I have prayed to Jesus, to God the Father and to Saint Erasmus of Formia, patron saint of sailors. I have also unsuccessfully invoked Tara, the redeeming goddess of Tibetan Buddhism. That is all my maritime wisdom.

I have no strength left and my mind tortures me sadistically with fleeting visions of paradisiacal lands which ultimately reveal as mere mirages. I find it difficult to distinguish what is true and what is false from my point of view on the surface of the water, with the enormous sky and sea as my only references.

I have dreams that I am sailing my little sailboat across the calm waters of the Rio de la Plata on a nice weekend away from my busy activities in Montevideo. I see my daughter Sofía coloring a very intricate and extremely beautiful mandala, I see my father whispering advice to me from beyond, and I listen to the sweet voice of Juana Molina singing in my ears her hypnotic “Paraguayan Girl”: “You will burn the rue and prepare the potion / And on moonlit nights you will repeat the prayer”. I take Juana’s invocation as an order, a healing and comforting mantra that allows me to survive.

Now I know I finally made it and my prayers have been heard. Amid the reverberation of the midday heat, the promising figure of an island with its white sandy beach and lush palm trees appears on the horizon. Fresh water, coconut milk and a bed to lie on await me.

I am lucky, because the waves are taking me there.

Marcelo MedoneMarcelo Medone (1961, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a Pushcart Prize nominee fiction writer, poet, essayist, playwright and screenwriter. His works received numerous awards and were published in magazines and books, individually or in anthologies, in multiple languages in more than 50 countries all over the world, including USA. He currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay.