Robin Peace and Jim Tretick

Jim Tretick
Inspiration Piece

My 35th Birthday
By Robin R. Peace


There is power in water – In its stillness, in its rage.  I am awed and humbled before it – Like a pilgrim paying homage in the Holy Land.  I am not worthy to be in its presence but like a tender lover, it beckons me to it – Like Calypso calling for Odysseus.  I am trapped in its embrace.

However, this is not the beginning of a beautiful poetic discourse on the sea.  I’m not that talented to sustain a long piece with nothing but amazing and powerful imagery.  I am just a black man, smoking a cigarette and drinking whiskey on his boat, staring at the stars and moonlight.

My boat was a gift for my 21st birthday me, from Tonton Andre, or as you would say, Uncle Andre.  My father’s side of the family is Haitian and Tonton, I was told as a child, means the same as Uncle.  The name of the boat is The Betsy.  It was named after Tonton Andre’s wife Matant (Aunt) Betsy, who died if breast cancer when she was only 32.  It’s not as big as Tonton Andre’s boat, The Commando, but I don’t mind.  All I care about is that it’s min and I can go anywhere I want in the world with it, and I have.  The sea is my playground.  There is not a port in the world that I have not docked on and I’m only 35.  I travel light and I travel alone.

I haven’t found a woman or man who understands my fascination, or some say obsession with the sea.  Even Tonton Andre thinks I am a little hardcore.  Maybe I am.  But I can’t imagine spending my life at a 9-5 job trapped in a cubicle, in front a computer with my only friends being the poor neurotic souls I meet on the Internet.  Do you know how many people I have met, all over the world?  Do you know how many languages I learned to speak?  I could write a tome on my trip to Asia alone.  The problem is I hate to write.  In fact, I am dictating this now.  If it gets to paper, or rather electronic form, then it’s due to my computer geek sister, Desiree, who was kind enough, “to help a brotha out.”

Tonight on my 35th birthday, I am staring up at the moon and all the stars in the sky; drinking a glass of authentic Irish whiskey, I had picked up on my travels.  I am pleasantly buzzed.  My boat is docked on my family’s pier.  Tonton Andre’s boat is next to mine.  Its mast is standing erect, waiting for someone to hoist the sail.  With his huge mast, his boat makes mine look like a rowboat.  But like I said, I’m cool with that.  The Betsy is a good, true, loyal woman to me and I will not trade her for anything.

I hear footsteps coming behind me.  Damn, I think.  I want to enjoy my buzz for a little longer. I turn and look to see Tonton Andre with the most beautiful black woman I have ever seen before.  She has short afro and large doe-like brown eyes.  When she smiles it is like the sun had come out.  Her body…okay, I’ll be delicate.  The sista is built like a brick house!  I put out my cigarette in my smokeless ashtray and take a swig of whiskey, trying to cover my smoker’s breath, forgetting my clothes still will stink with cigarette smoke.

Tonton Andre says, “Philippe, this is Henrietta, Ms. Katrina’s daughter.  You two used to play together as children, do you remember her?”

My eyes must look like saucers.  The Etta I remember is knock-kneed, braces, coke-bottles for glasses and hair so nappy and untamable, she always looks like she had rolled out of bed and just walked outside, forgetting to do her hair.  This can’t be that Etta!

“Yes, Philippe, it’s me.  How have you been?”  She asks.

When she speaks, she has a slight Haitian accent like every one on my father’s side of the family, including Tonton Andre.  Yet, you can tell she has been educated in the States.  I am mesmerized.  She glides, not sits, down on the chair beside me.  She is so damn smooth; I can’t take my eyes off her.  Tonton finds an excuse to leave us alone.  The bastard knows what he is doing.  He thinks that Etta will tame me and bring me in from the sea.  But he’s wrong and strangely enough, so am I.

All night we talk about the sea.  I thought I would never find anyone as obsessed with it as me.  She tells me that she wants to go all the places I have been to.  She wants to leave with me the next time I cast off.  I try to dissuade her.

I say, “It’s not all fun and games, Etta.  If you come with me, there are days and nights where all you see is ocean and we sometimes run out of supplies and have to rely on fish that we have to entice from the sea.  There is also having to work for supplies once we enter port because gasoline, food, etc. costs money.  Then there is the company, you may get sick of me…”

She cuts me off by taking my hand and giving me the most radiant smile.

She says, “I never got sick of you as a child and you were an annoying spoiled brat back then.  Philippe, I want to be free.  I just quit my computer-programming job because I could not take living in a cubicle anymore.  If you don’t mind me bringing a laptop which I promise to only use an hour a day, I would be honored and blessed if you would take me with you.”

I am stunned.  For a few minutes, I can’t speak.

I finally say, “If you’re game, I leave at 8 am the day after tomorrow.  Pack only three suitcases.  One for summer clothes, one for winter clothes and one for things you can’t do without.  If you’re not here by 8:15 am, I am going to assume you changed your mind and leave.  By the way, leave your laptop at home.  I have one on board, which I hardly ever use.”

She jumps up and kisses me.

“I’m going home to pack right now!”  She says.

I stand up and watch her leave.  She is nearly running.  I try not to laugh at how cute she looks.

Now facing the bow of the ship, I raise my glass of whiskey and say, “Betsy, I have finally found a companion suitable to join us.  I pray that you will not be jealous of her and protect and keep her safe as you have me these several years.”

I take a drink of my whiskey and decide to call it a night.  I have a lot of shit to move in the morning to make space for my new crewmember.  I take one last look at the moon.  The man in the moon seems to be laughing his ass off.  A siren has finally caught Odysseus and this Odysseus is glad to be caught.

Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.


  1. Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm | #

    Hey Robin, I just read your Spark 10 piece. What I love most about your work is that all I have to do is close my eyes and I am there in your story. This piece was beautifully written.

  2. Posted October 30, 2010 at 4:37 pm | #

    Hey Robin, wonderful job! 🙂