The Quest of Your Heart

Jun 7, 2011

Last of all, you must want to find it,” she said, flipping her thick black braid off her shoulder.

I frowned. What kind of idiot did she take me for? I traveled 3200 miles, by cab, two airplanes, by rental car over dusty washboard roads for three and half arm numbing hours, and finally, by boat, piloted by a silent native man, I was embarrassed I had no idea what tribe, who both ignored my attempts at conversation and my increasingly desperate requests to slow the f–k down.

After all that, she thought I didn’t want to find it? I squared my shoulders, the battered plastic chair creaking beneath me.

How early in the morning can I get started?”

She didn’t answer; instead she cocked her head, studying me. I half expected her to caw like the ravens who screamed at me from the cedars when I had finally found her cabin, up a long, steep hill from the tiny harbor.

She motioned for me to put out my hand. She pressed something heavy, cold and hard into my palm, her own hand hiding whatever it was from my view. She could have been 62 or 35, her olive skin smooth, her eyes cloudy.

What had I gotten myself into? I should have listened to Peter and never started down this rabbit hole, only I couldn’t listen to him because I hadn’t told him what I was doing, where I was going. He thought I was at a shareholder’s meeting in Vancouver.

Nope. I was a hundred miles by water from the nearest town and the mainland, long out of cell phone range, cold, hungry and curious as hell. Wait, that was a lie, and I tried never to lie, if only to myself. I wasn’t curious; I was possessed. Obsessed.

“This is the last one we have to give,” she said, her nails digging into my palm, whatever I was holding making my arm ache from its weight. “If you do not find what you seek, if you return empty handed like all the others, it is over.” She pulled me closer. “It is lost.”

I could smell her breath, coffee, cinnamon, and something else, something pulpy and raw.

“When I emailed your son, he made it sound like this was something women did all the time. He never said anything about the last time, the last one.” Tears itched my sinuses. This had all been a stupid, expensive, pipe dream.  Starting in Peru and leading through Iceland and now here. I wasn’t going. “I can’t take responsibility for that.”  I tugged at my hand and she let go.

“Too late,” she murmured, looking down at what I was holding.

A fossilized heart covered my palm. As I watched, it started beating.


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