Earlier that morning, in the dawn light, the port already seemed other worldly. The silence was striking. The air smelled smoky. Alone in the mangrove protected anchorage, our two 30-something foot catamarans looked like alien space craft awkwardly trying to blend in to this different time and place. I had been too sick to go ashore the day before, so I woke up early, anxious to see this place my husband and our friends were chattering about. They said they’d seen kids the day before and wanted to bring them some gifts. So I gathered some boxes of crayons and notebooks, and then while rummaging in the junk drawer in the main saloon I found the Yellow Sparkly Super Ball.
The Yellow Sparkly Super Ball was our stowaway. It belonged to a friend from New York City who clutched it manically when he visited to bid us bon voyage 8 months earlier. It was about 2 weeks after 9/11. This friend and his wife lived in a high rise a mere mile from Ground Zero and witnessed first-hand, from their own bedroom window, the horrors that marked that day. And sitting in our main saloon a couple of weeks later, re-telling what they’d experienced, he wrung that Yellow Sparkly Super Ball in his hands as if he were trying to squeeze away the very memory of it all. Our friends went home, but the ball accidentally stowed away.
When we discovered the ball while underway somewhere in Florida we both instantly remembered its origin. So trying to make light of things, we made Yellow Sparkly Super Ball a part of the crew. We sent e-mails and updates to its owner commenting on its new found love of the sea and regaling them with its adventures in various ports of call. So I decided the bring Yellow Sparkly Super Ball ashore in Cuba for another adventure to write home about.
As the heat of the day retreated, people began to emerge from their modest homes and gather on the front porch to watch our procession. Giggles and whispers of “lobito” and “osito (little wolf and little bear) drifted on the dusty breeze as Schooner-dog curiously sniffed and marked his way through town. I had my gaze fixed on two little girls who were trying to be stealthy as they ran from tree to fence following us and hiding at the same time. I suspected they were eager to meet our furry ring leader, so I waved them out from behind a barn and asked them in Spanish if they wanted to meet the dog.
Shyly shuffling their feet along the dusty ground they held hands and scurried over. With their coffee skin and radiant smiles we were instantly smitten. They pet the dog uneasily, as if he really were a bear. Our friends handed one girl some crayons and a notebook which she accepted wide eyed. And then her eye caught the glint of Yellow Sparkly Super Ball in the bottom of the bag. It was as if it were forged in gold. She didn’t have to say it. I knew.
Through their eyes I started to notice the ball in greater detail. Luminescent yellow, ingrained glitter, glossy finish. The ball brought comfort to its first owner and I knew he’d be happy to see it bring joy to a new one.
“Tomelo,” I said. “Take it.”
They ran down the main road of Puerto Manati, holding the ball high over their heads like Charlie Bucket with his golden ticket. Children seemed to emerge from the dust following in a pack to get a glimpse. We started to walk back towards the shore when he heard the sudden screams. Our friends looked up concerned, but I didn’t flinch.
“They just discovered it flashes multi-colored lights when you bounce it,” I said without needing to look back and see.
I found a new home. Please don’t worry about me. I am being well cared for. I think this picture speaks for itself. These girls need me, just like you did. And besides, I’m tired of life at sea.
Yellow Sparkly Super Ball”