Calypso Ray knew, just like everyone else does, what it takes to be happy. She knew it, but she just couldn’t do it. Either that, or things just hadn’t fallen the right way for her. Yes, she thought, it was obviously some deficiency within herself that caused happiness to elude her; because she had done all the right things, all the things one is supposed to do, ever since she was a little girl; and yet, life still never felt quite right. Maybe she didn’t really know after all. Don’t get me wrong though, it wasn’t that Calypso was unhappy, not exactly. She was fine. That’s what she’d say in fact, when anyone asked her how she was doing. “She was doing just fine.”
But maybe happiness is the wrong measure. Nobody can be happy all the time, right? Maybe what she was seeking was really fulfillment, not happiness; or maybe she wanted her life to have some kind of meaning. Honestly, it sounds mundane to say it, but she was trying to make her life matter. And sometimes it did seem to matter, she could feel it; like when she tucked her daughter into bed, and as she sang to her while she fell asleep. In those quiet moments when their eyes met—her child’s eyes heavy and at peace, and her own, smiling—then the world around her disappeared, and it was then that Calypso felt her life mattered most. But a lot of the time, maybe most of the other times, it didn’t seem to matter much at all.
And this bothered her, but like most people, she didn’t want to let on that she had this problem. It seems so silly after all, doesn’t it? And she could live without thinking about it, so that’s what she tried to do. She’d hate that I was telling you all of this; and maybe this makes me a bad friend. But I thought you might like to know, because maybe you’ll relate to this; and her story is, at the very least, entertaining. Besides, it is easier for me to make a confession on behalf of a friend, rather than relate my own issues, so telling you about Calypso Ray is a good distraction. Yet, in the end, her story isn’t all that different than my own, I suppose—aside from the particulars and the details. The broad strokes are quite similar. We’re all a lot more alike than different, after all.
Calypso was a swimmer, and a klutz. In the pool and in the surf she was graceful; but get her on land, and then she bumped into things. Perhaps she just didn’t pay enough attention, since her mind was constantly someplace else. There were always so many things to do, to get done, and it was never-ending, the lists, the errands, the work to keep up, to get ahead, to satisfy her loved ones and herself. And she was always late: taking her daughter to day-care, picking up groceries, meeting her husband, meeting her friends, arriving at work, leaving work, waking up, and heading to bed. Occasionally, she tried hard to think about her life but always found it difficult to make any conclusions. For instance, she stopped one day on the sidewalk, with her coffee in hand, and she closed her eyes for a moment to help her think, but suddenly she opened them again—embarrassed to be seen with her eyes closed in public, and feeling like a freak. She pretended to have something in her eye, in case anyone was watching her. She glanced around at the passers-by but nobody seemed to notice. But just in case, she squinted a few more times and closed her eyes again, blinking—to make her subterfuge complete. But what she had really wanted to do when she closed her eyes, was try to think about her life. For instance, why did she just buy the coffee in her hand? Did she even like coffee? Just then several women passed by, carrying their coffee, and they all smiled at her, and she smiled back. “I guess I like coffee,” she thought, as she glanced at her watch and realized she had better get a move on.
She wore her watch on her left wrist, like most people do. She also held her coffee in her left hand, most of the time. So when she turned her wrist to look at her watch, she dumped her coffee down her blouse, and across her skirt. “Crap!” She exclaimed. Calypso had a bit of a foul mouth, but generally she could keep that under wraps, and it only surfaced when something surprised her. As a little girl, this often made adults laugh. As a teen, it bothered her parents, and embarrassed them at holidays and when they attended church. As a young woman though, it became normal. Strange. But all of her girlfriends also had foul mouths. So, it was no longer an issue for her, so she settled into it comfortably, and eventually learned to feel fine when cuss-words came out unexpectedly. At first, she laughed nervously when she swore, because memories of her parents’ reactions flitted across her mind, but when the friends in her company showed no reaction at all, she learned not to worry about it either. So she came to the conclusion: “What’s wrong with an occasional bad word anyway? Who really gives a shimmy-shimmy*!” (*Not Calypso’s actual expression, author’s substitution.) And this made her smile. But she sighed now, as she looked down at the coffee stains all over her clothing, and she knew she’d be late to her meeting, that is, if she could even make it there at all, before it ended.
When I first saw Calypso swim, my heart stopped and my mind raced, as she slid between the waves like a knife. She could slice her way through water while barely leaving a trace, with hardly a ripple left behind. I don’t remember exactly, so maybe it was my mind that stopped and my heart that raced, as she wove her magic through that shimmering water. I never saw anything like her before, nobody quite so beautiful. Maybe it was her swimming which was beautiful to me and nothing more, because I could hardly see her form beneath the surface, and never saw her face. Her arms were exquisite though. They churned smoothly and evenly, a continuous rhythm that first I followed with my eyes, and then my mind, and finally with all of me—it was I that followed in her wake. And time stopped. And was recalibrated to the motion of her hands—rising and falling—lifting out of the water from somewhere near her hips, making a circuit through the sky, and dipping again just beyond her forehead. Round and round they went; and her golden hair streaming behind her like the rays of the sun. For how long did I watch her? I have no idea. Minutes? Hours? Days? She was like a continuous day to me, and there was no night when watching her.