On the first day of school when Sophie walked into the classroom, she immediately attracted the attention of every boy. She wasn’t particularly attractive and only stood about five-foot-five, with short cropped hair, and a short-waisted leather jacket, but there was a tough streetwise aura about her making her presence somewhat intimidating, but at the same time, alluring. Being a street kid, Robert immediately knew he would hook up with her.
Shortly thereafter, he saw Sophie at a bookshop he frequented, walked up behind her noticing she had a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Age of Reason” in her hands, and said, “Those existential writers are too depressing for me.”
Unfazed, Sophie asked, “Who do you like?”
“I’m into Beat writers like Kerouac and Burroughs.”
The rest of the lunch hour was occupied with discussions about books, and from that day forward they were inseparable and spent their breaks exploring little curio shops or sitting in the park discussing authors.
At the time, there was a war raging in Vietnam and the military was conscripting young men Robert’s age by the thousands. He thought his chances of survival were better if he joined up rather than be conscripted.
Sophie told him they could go to Canada, but Robert knew that was a pipe dream and didn’t want to live like a fugitive.
On the night before Robert was due to leave, he took Sophie to dinner and a coffeehouse where they listened to music.
The atmosphere between them was pensive and devoid of the usual chattiness.
The session at the coffeehouse broke up at around three in the morning. A thunderstorm had passed, and outside, the air was cool and saturated with the sweet scent of gardenias bordering the old wooden building.
Robert said, “I don’t feel like going home, why don’t we go over to the bay and watch the ships come and go until morning?”
In a somber tone, Sophie responded, “Neither do I. I would just like to be with you for a while more.”
They walked out to the end of a rocky breakwater and sat beneath a flashing red beacon indicating the entrance to the harbor.
Surrounding them, fish darted around and ignited the phosphorescence in the water leaving luminescent trails that dissipated like shooting stars. Small jellyfish, at the slightest motion, lit up like twinkling stars.
Two ships were passing. A soft breeze disturbed the water and the ships’ lights cast rippling reflections converging to the spot where Sophie and Robert sat.
Sophie asked, “Where do you think that ship is coming from and the other ship is going?”
Robert said, “The smaller ship is a coastal freighter headed to Mexico with refrigerators and washing machines. The big one is coming in to pick up a load of fertilizer and haul it back to Mobile or Galveston.“
Sophie nestled close to Robert, squeezed his hand, and said, “I wish we were on the one going to Mexico.
Hand in hand, they sat silently while above them the random powderpuff clouds, the debris from a spent thunderstorm raced past. The clouds collected the moonlight and illuminated the night sky with a silvery glow as the tide ebbed and the bay turned into a softly rolling mercurial pool of serpentine reflections.
As they sat there waiting for the sun to peek over the horizon, a steely stillness prevailed at the tide’s turning. Only the fish silently darting about left phosphorescent trails and two ships sliding out of sight gave any indication of motion on the earth below.
There, in the predawn silence, they both knew it might be the last time they would ever be together.
George C Glasser was born in Tampa Florida in 1945 and didn’t begin his writing career until 1990 when he had investigative environmental articles published and republished in international environmental publications and newspapers. Glasser’s specialty was industrial pollutants and their toxicological impact. In 2000, he married a British woman and relocated to the UK where he lives now in South Yorkshire. In 2010, he retired from environmental work to concentrate on creative writing. His primary influences were writers such as Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, Hunter S. Thompson, and William Burroughs. In 2010, Glasser wrote his first book, “The Other Side to This Life,” a fictionalized biography about his experiences during the 1960s at the epicenter of the Counterculture Revolution and Vietnam War. Presently, Glasser writes album reviews and articles for the online publication, Jazz Syndicate Magazine. Glasser said, “I’ve always enjoyed writing about music, especially old Blues musicians with colorful lives. It entails everything I enjoy about writing. Sometimes, it takes ten or fifteen hours of entertaining research to come up with a succinct 500-700 words that give an accurate snapshot of the musician and the music.”