A Story by Robert Strzalko

New material that isn't included in any of my books. This is the short story version of the original poem that appears in The Sun Loves Every Planet. This short story version has no dialogue.


     Eleven days of silence is what she said about the Buddhist monastery in Tibet that she and her two companions had just come from with hairy legs and braided hair.  They slept on a concrete floor without pillows; no softness was allowed.  They didn’t speak once the entire time.  I could tell by the anguish in her eyes and the tone of her voice that for her it must have been excruciatingly painful.  She couldn’t really say if she got in touch with her inner self.  She did, however, find a never ending stream of words to describe in vivid detail how frightening it was to have spiders creeping across her pampered flesh.  It was they that fascinated her more than the wooden bowls of rice she shared with monks.  Though they denied the desires of their flesh and practiced contemplative meditation with rigid discipline, the austerity and silence failed to dispel her web of illusion.  She was confident and rather self assured; at least she wanted me to think she was.  She wanted me to believe that the experience had absolutely no effect on her.  She talked about it all rather nonchalantly as though she was far more jaded than I or anyone else could ever be.  After all, she’s been traipsing around the globe for a few years now.  Her next plan on her journey in life is to head back to Singapore and look for work as a w***e.  Well, she didn’t say it like that.  She said she knows a wealthy man there who owns a yacht or two.  She could perhaps get a job working for him; can’t ever see herself going back to the states because people there are too pretentious.

     The other American girl had long, golden hair.  It was cornsilk straight like pages in a book unread and it gleamed with a demure beauty in the bright sun.  It fell across her pallid shoulders rather delicately as though the wind had not even thought of blowing her well combed sense of proportion out of place.  Her almond shaped eyes were bluer than the turquoise water and just as shallow; but there was something in them, a passion that wanted to break free as she talked about her desire to join the Peace Corps and help less sophisticated people get their act together.  When I asked her if she really perceived this as helpful she, of course, felt that interfering in other cultures was completely justified.  It was her noble duty as an enlightened soul, one that had just had the ancient wisdom of ages imparted to her, to spread American know-how to those who hate us and burn our flag.  But that wasn’t enough.  She had to go even further and tell me about the time she spent in Yemen after backpacking across Europe and lived as one of the local women do, face covered, eyes lowered, her needs subservient to the opium inspired dreams of men.  I was more than a little perplexed when she said she missed the exotic sensuality of the Arabic world and wanted to go back.  I tried to be patient but my politeness wore out; so I turned my attention to the third one instead.

     Her red hair was so thick you could see it bursting out from the sides of her bikini bottom like crab legs.  It was as lush and carefree as her cleavage and thighs.  It came halfway down her forehead, so that it was difficult to tell where her hairline ended and her freckles began.  None of this gave me an inkling of where she was from though.  It was her accent that gave her away.  Though she could easily have been mistaken for one of those Scandinavian girls with delicate skin that burns quickly in the sun, she was from a small seaport village in Australia.  As I listened to her stories of snorkeling in the bay past shoals of tropical fish that give life to the shadowy depths around the coral reefs, all the while watching for a Tiger or Mako fin cutting through the water, I grew tired or something.  So I stood up and walked back across the hot sand to the thatched hut that’s been my home for several weeks now and listened to the rain of the orient against the lull of waves coming to shore as I drifted off to sleep with images of that girl I saw at the Hong Kong Airport still fresh in my mind.  I don’t know why I suddenly found myself thinking about her.  It could have been the way she looked at me as we passed each other in the terminal, the soft secrets shimmering in her exquisite eyes, or it could have been the way she knelt down with gentle kindness to retrieve a piece of luggage for a stranger.  I know nothing about her other than what I felt for her at that moment.  I did know though, in that brief fleeting moment, that she would linger in my dreams and memory; I knew that I would never forget her.  

© 2018 Robert Strzalko

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Added on February 3, 2014
Last Updated on August 21, 2018


Robert Strzalko
Robert Strzalko

Loves Park, IL

Hi. I'm the author of A BULLET FOR TWO, THE COLOR OF DREAMS and THE SUN LOVES EVERY PLANET. A BULLET FOR TWO won a NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the Western Category Fall 2011. THE SUN LOVES.. more..