“What Is Found?”

Fiction by Barbara Goldowsky

I am a coward. Yesterday, when I found the 20-year-old, unsent letter, I threw it away without opening or reading it. Why scrape at old wounds? You were lost to me then, as was our shared homeland, the Big Island of Hawaii.  Would sending the letter have revived our early love? Was I careless in forgetting to mail the letter, or fearful of your answer? I fear pain. I am a coward.

I am not a coward; I am a brave woman. When I found the letter yesterday, I had the courage to relive the pain and then consign it to the past. I had just cut up a pomegranate and thrown the rind into the waste bin. I flung the letter on top of it. The lava-red juice of the fruit stained it, as with blood.  I am brave — heroic.

Our separate families, for their own reasons, put continents between us. I doubt they were aware of our youthful attachment. I am certain they took no notice of the misunderstanding that separated us. I never sent my letter. I received none from you.

Continents separate us. Physically, we are still lost. But, through the magic of the internet, we have found each other once more. In cyberspace, Brazil lies next to Bangor, Maine. We can send each other as many letters as we want, no stamps required. Finding you recently, so unexpectedly, after decades, was thrilling.

“Bittersweet” is your word. I am free, after moving house twice and getting divorced once. You are not. Still, we can “converse” through the email account you must keep secret from your unreasonably jealous wife. Do not be careless about that.

Shall I send you all that I have written here? If you could see me now, you would not find me careless. I raise orchids with meticulous attention to their needs. Like a mother, I protect them from this bone-chilling climate. Some days I wear a blossom in my hair, in memory of our warm, flower-caressed homeland. I think of the island, of the primordial lava from Kilauea Volcano that plunges, still burning, into the hissing sea, where it creates a future land in the present.

As we age, we learn that the past claims an ever-larger share of the years allotted to us. We cannot discard it like the scraped-out rind of a pomegranate. Would it change our future if I had re-read the letter? If I had sent it to you?

If I could see you now, would I find a coward or a hero? Would you be brave enough to accept that what is found is not what was lost?

Barbara Goldowsky is a writer living in East Hampton who has published poems, fiction, and nonfiction. Her most recent publication is “Peace of the Hamptons,” a collection of short stories.