I go back to that summer in Greece, how I proposed to you, and how I nearly drowned. You saw my hands, rising up out of the sea, and grabbed them. We were both romantics then, and you called me Odysseus though we both knew how that story would end. But there, in between the islands, on the shining water, we didn’t care or mind the broken bits in our hearts or families. We’d crossed the same seas in our own time. Seen everything that was lost and shed in the wake of our parents’ divorces. You called it radical hope, but we were both finished with our own cynicism. Even the ruins here seem brighter than they should.
It was hard, coming home to Michigan. But, we had a small apartment just out of town. We didn’t mind how the paint peeled in the humid air, or how trash filled the storm drains. It was nice, living close enough to walk to the print shop where I worked, even though we were on the wrong side of the highway, and for a while, the only real trial was the temptation of the comic shop on the corner of Fourth and Main. We lived together for five years even though your parents never approved but always asked when we’d be married. We had our own plans and our own dreams though, and our engagement was easier, a promise without a promise. We couldn’t be divorced if we were never married. In our apartment, we made a home, pushed books up against the wall, and lined the window sill with plants.
But, walking to work the other day, I sold your engagement ring at the pawn shop just past the comics place. We both knew, when you left for California, you weren’t coming back before you put that ring into my hand. For a few weeks, I’d see it there, on the finger of a pair of hands in the window and think of buying it back for you, selling everything I had, and buying a ticket to follow you. You called it radical hope. But, yesterday I walked by the shop again and saw the ring was gone. The hands in the window, reaching for the sky, like they were breaking through the waves of the Aegean with no one to grab them.
Vahid Arefi is an Iranian-American from Michigan. He received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and studied Sustainability and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. His work placed in the Michigan College of Engineering Cooley Writing Contest. Previously, in the first grade, he won the Terzo Premio art prize of the Collegio San Giuseppe. Vahid and his peers host a writer’s workshop from their living rooms in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Grand Rapids.