She bought a hotel, on the ocean, because God told her to. For this, she needed help, so she turned to God, and gofundme.com to raise ten million dollars for the purchase. She decorated her hotel with stars and starfish, or anything having to do with mariners, and the ocean, but mostly stars and starfish—-and thought, God is the stars.
Her hair was thick and curly, and hung down to mid-torso, both he loved to wash when they shared a tub. After he gently massaged in shampoo, he slowly poured water over her. The both shared this feeling of cleansing. Afterward, they would lay in bed in crisp sheets, the walls as glossed as a blinding light, looked at her ceiling, a flat blue-black, with specs of light painted on it. He drove up there the first three days of every month, as long as it wasn’t the weekend, as the hotel filled during those times. He said he was there because he loved the ocean, but didn’t worship it like a God, and he also let it slip that he loved her too.
Before the next month, she told him not to come. It was sudden, He represented too much of her old world and her spirituality demanded something which she could only describe to him, to make him understand, as something like their bath seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, He tried a few times to get in touch with her, even calling the hotel’s office, but the recording only said that she/they were no longer taking phone calls but leave a message, if you felt called to do so, and would be returned if she/they were able and felt called to do so as well.
This all happened because there were things she never told him. It was a long story, which she had worked through, but it was important for her to be viewed as she was now, never as she was then. Before she was brought to the place she is in now, she used to work as a dental hygienist. She hated the early patients, first thing in the morning who rolled out of bed and did nothing to their mouths because they were getting brushed and flossed there. She hated the patients seen after lunch who only brushed twice a day, and not after lunch. They were the ones that left fish between their teeth. She had no respect for those who didn’t have self-care. Mostly it all came down to not brushing and flossing because if everyone brushed and flossed, she wouldn’t be needed as much.
The dentist who owned the practice became her lover. He was older, but not yet of the age where he smelled of being old. She liked how he ran the office, paying attention to her, and all the employees. He had empathy, and even commiserating about the morning and after lunch people she despised. The sex was great after hours, on a dentist chair, experimenting with the external oral suction machine, which she was responsible for the sanitizing of afterward. Then the sex was good at his house, and after she moved in the sex wasn’t as good. It became his way, and at his times. She also was stunned to realize he wasn’t at all the way he was in the office. He was unsupportive, critical, jealous of some of the patients she worked on, and verbally demanding and abusive. She no longer could stand him, but he was her employer, he was her home, and he had become her only lifeline, and he knew it. She felt an urge to do something bad enough to him to land herself in jail, or if she didn’t, land herself in an impatient facility.
The only way possible to leave him was mentally. As long as he thought she was coming on to patients she thought, why not graze her breasts against the back of the head of the men she from behind as she scaled his teeth? Why not whisper in their ear if they seemed responsive to that, about a place to meet later and a time? Why not give herself some sort of control? At first it seemed exciting, almost righteous, but often it brought her to another dark place where she wanted to take the sharp scaling tool and plunge in straight down through the next patient’s submandibular duct.
And then came the day, she and her dentist drove up the coast, and something was said, which she can’t remember, because he pushed her head hard against the passenger side window causing a concussion. She was in a hospital, and he was nowhere to be seen. When he did come back for her, the next day, she was gone, referred to a woman’s shelter on the ocean, run by a group of nuns known to be part of the Maryknoll Sisters. She loved the nuns, because of their presence of love, and that they gave her space to heal, and meditate and work her way out of her PTSD. She walked the beach, picking up shells, driftwood and dried starfish. The wood once important, had ended up here, exactly where she was, getting grounded in space. This was important, as the sand, the sea, and the stars, gave her peace.
She also began writing a book about overcoming her abuse, and broadcasting some of her story on the internet. The segments were heavy and touched on how she had been saved, and her rediscovered faith. She confessed she wanted to be a nun, a key revelation which would become the conclusion of her memoir. People followed her broadcasts, thousands of them, engrossed by her and her story. The nuns also tuned in. They liked her, but she wasn’t Catholic, and that was a reason good enough why she couldn’t become one of them. She would do the next best thing. She bought the hotel next door.
The hotel either had guests who loved the ocean, or guests who went there as an instrument of God’s teaching, based on her promotion. It was all fine with her, because she believed Gods was the stars, so why not it be the sea, or a man with a beard.
Occasionally she missed the man who used to visit, and wanted to have time with him, but then the thought made her feel uncomfortable and confused. She thought maybe it was fear, or perhaps love, but the one with the small “l”, not the big “L” which she lived for. She knew, without knowing her story, he couldn’t know her, and he could never be the One who knew the number of hairs on her head. She gave her story out to the world, but not to him, which represented something. The day she told him not to come back she already knew, he could never be He.
Timothy Gager has published 17 books of fiction and poetry. Joe the Salamander,is his third novel became an Amazon #1 Best Seller in its category. He hosted the successful Dire Literary Series in Cambridge, MA from 2001 to 2018, and started a weekly virtual series in 2020. He has had over 1000 works of fiction and poetry published, 17 nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His work also has been nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award, The Best of the Web, The Best Small Fictions Anthology and has been read on National Public Radio.