Atop the mast

HE SLEEPS AT THE TOP OF THE MAST, mouth slightly open, whispering incoherent words to his dreams. It’s a precarious choice of a resting place, yet although the ship moves up and down with each rolling wave, and sways him this way and that, it never lets him fall. The midday sun warms his skin and his hair. His violin is cradled to his chest like a baby, the sleeve of that arm pushed up, four strings pressing soft red lines into his wrist. Below, men on shift shout and run and swing on ropes as they work. With a loud noise, the white sails beneath him unfurl, growing and groaning as winds crash into them; and still he doesn’t wake up.

They’ve been at sea for weeks and weeks. Land seems more like a vague memory in the back of his mind than something real and solid. It’s been so long…

He climbed up here hours ago. He’s always been quick on his feet, born with a mixture of suppleness and sureness that let him constantly scale sheer heights for no more than a better view. Of what? Everything—a fight, a race, girls, ships, the entire world just waiting at his fingertips. The world is always stopping for him. Whenever his cheeks deepen in a secret smile as though he knows something you don’t, when he blinks in feigned ignorance, and especially when he pulls out his old violin and makes it laugh, and cry, and dance and sing for him, for him and no one else.

Ariel Mo