The seas are roiling under a starless sky. Low hanging clouds engulfed the ship all day and now clouds engulf the stars as well. No moon shining nor stars sending their sparkling beams to earth and as I stand gazing up, I am filled with such a deep yearning I must consciously think to breath. For it was on such a night that first I saw her; for then too there were no stars.

I had always wanted to go to sea. As a boy my father would take me to the wharf and we would spend hours watching the majesty of what he called the "wooden palaces of the water" ease into port or gingerly ease their way out. And the seaman as they came ashore were lean and tanned with ropy muscles evidencing what had to be months of strenuous work, long days keeping the ship to rights, fishing the seas or carrying cargo to and from ports as yet unknown to me.

And I knew. I knew I had to go to sea.

My dad called me a strapping lad. I grew tall quickly and defined muscles became visible in arms and legs. My mom would tease that no matter how hard my father worked he would never be able to make enough money to keep feeding the likes of me who ate like three good sized men! At 16, I found my way to a shipping office in Cape Town and signed aboard a ship traveling around the Cape and on up the east coast of Africa delivering cargo from port to port. I would be leaving in two weeks' time.

As I wandered the streets of the city that night the joy I felt just knowing I would be out to sea, threatened to overwhelm me — and then I saw her. She emerged, nay floated from a building up ahead holding a lantern to light her way. As she walked I had no choice but to follow. 

Sensing my presence behind her, she turned quickly and a combination of anger with just a touch of fear in her eyes stopped me. Bright eyes of an amazing blue illuminated by the lantern looked me over and the fear instantly receded as she quietly said, "Why are you following me?"

Without thought I blurted, "Forgive me please, but you are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. These streets can be rough at night. I couldn't bear it if something should happen to you."

I think I was more shocked than she at my inappropriately forward outburst. She blinked once and then began laughing. Oh what a joyous sound that was and I knew in that instant that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the girl who over the next two weeks became my Annette.

Now I stand late at night, the juncture of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean causing great rocking as I steady myself at the rail thinking only of her and the months that I will be away from the laugh, that face those gentle kisses we exchanged tasting of the tears she shed as we said goodbye.

I had written a letter, a letter of how I yearned for her presence, but how could I get it to her?

Next morning we pulled into Mossel Bay and, we were given leave. I wondered about and spotted a tree beckoning me. Beneath it lay a boot abandoned and without thought I placed the letter, Annette's letter into it knowing not why I had done it.

When I returned to Cape Town months later, Annette greeted me on the pier. When she had cried her fill and our need to be in each other's arms abated, she thanked me for the beautiful letter. I stood agape. How, had she received it?

Another young seaman had found the tree, the boot and the letter within. Seeing Annette's address printed on the folded page, he had personally delivered it when he went ashore at Cape Town.

To this day there stands the "Post Office Tree" in Mossel Bay, Africa where legend has it, through the years, people have left letters for sailors to find and deliver along their travels.

Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. Visit wendy's website at www.wendylevenfeld.com.

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