A Sea Connection
“Evy, there’s this strange letter and I think it’s for you,” Josh said as he came into my small home office. Usually he didn’t disturb me while I was grading my kids' schoolwork, but this must have really been something else to warrant a visit.
“What’s so strange about it?” I asked without looking up from the page in front of me.
A part of me did hope it wasn’t something strange, since I was already dealing with more than I wanted to handle. One of my more imaginative students, to put it kindly, had drawn a very interesting version of a spaceship as an inclusion to his assigned history report, and I was trying to decide whether to give him an extra point for the effort, even though I hadn’t asked for any pictures, or take a point for not following directions. He was by far my most challenging student and it was always a balance of rewards or punishments with him. I was constantly having to deal with surprises from him, and the closer it got to the end of the year I found my patience tested on a regular basis. He was also the child that made being a teacher incredibly rewarding because of his imagination and untainted wonder of the world. I truly appreciated and loved him, still, I couldn’t deny that I was looking forward to the safe-haven of summer break.
“It’s hard to explain actually,” Josh replied. “Here.”
The letter popped into my peripheral vision, causing me to raise my eyes. If there was one thing my husband was good at, it was describing things, so the fact that the envelope had rendered him speechless made me both curious and terrified of it. I groaned internally at this unexpected surprise.
Taking it from his hands I could see why he was stumped. The thick paper of the envelope was definitely homemade, but there was something else to it—grittiness? It also smelled of salt, not like the pleasant scent of the ocean, but the really briny smell that you get from rotting seaweed. I immediately felt sorry for the postman that had to deliver the thing. The envelope was sealed with a curious shimmering wax that I didn’t know what to make of, with a crest of fine detail. Who even sealed things with wax anymore, I thought. Flipping the envelope over, I read who it was addressed to and completely froze in utter shock.
“Evy, are you okay?”
Josh’s question pulled me out of my temporary pause. “Um, yes, I think?”
He nodded toward the envelope, “What’s with the name?”
“Pokemon was my brother’s nickname for me when we were kids.” I would have smiled if my heart wasn’t currently threatening to explode from my chest.
As soon as I said it, Josh was as stunned as I was. My twin brother, Deven, had disappeared just a few months before my wedding and I hadn’t seen him since. That was almost eight years ago, so why was my supposedly dead twin sending me a letter out of the blue? The day he disappeared was still fresh in my memory—and it still hurt that he just left without a goodbye. For tide’s sake, I was his twin, and his desire to escape his “horrible existence” mattered more to him than the effect it would have on our family. My parents and I were devastated. We even had him officially declared dead after three years to try and gain some semblance of closure.
I flipped the envelope over and ripped it open as Josh settled behind my left shoulder. I had to know if this letter really was from Deven or just some sick joke. At first glance it didn’t seem to be a joke, since the script was neat and tight; my brother’s handwriting.
I know it has been years since I left, and though I don’t expect it, I hope you can find space in your heart to forgive me. I’ve wanted to tell you what happened for a long time, but, honestly, I didn’t think you would believe me, so I avoided sending this communication altogether. Finally, Jelah convinced me to just do it despite the years that have passed.
Jelah? Who the heck is Jelah, I wondered.
You’ll have to delve into your memory in order for me to explain my disappearance. Do you remember that conch shell you brought me from your vacation to Turks and Caicos? You told me it was a way for me to communicate with the ocean since I was no longer able to go myself.
How could I forget? That was the trip when my husband proposed and I had found that shell on the beach. It was a perfect specimen for a conch shell and I had been hoping it would bring Deven some joy—he’d lost every bit of it after his accident. My brother had always been the fun one between the two of us, constantly jumping from one thing to the next. We had countless adventures growing up, but after he lost his ability to walk, he just wasn’t the same. It hurt me to see him that way, and I bent over backward to try and help him find his joy again.
I want you to know that the shell was the best thing you could have done for me and I treasure it. As I write this, the shell is sitting on my desk as a decoration. You see, it turns out that the Conch was more than just a way for me to hear the ocean, it actually gave me the ability to communicate with someone in the ocean. Believe me when I say that no one was more surprised than I at that turn. It’s how I first started talking to Jelah.
Again, who was this Jelah person!?
I have no doubt you will think this insane, you were always so practical like that, but mermaids are real and Jelah is one.
“Mermaids?” I turned to give Josh an incredulous look. “Does he think I’m naive?”
“He does say you wouldn’t believe him?”
“And you do?”
“No, but there is a lot of mystery around this letter. I’m almost willing to consider the occult to explain a letter from your supposedly dead brother,” Josh replied.
I sighed. Honestly, I couldn’t argue with him. I wouldn’t be surprised if logic fled me the moment I touched the strange envelope.
I could probably make a few educated guesses as to what’s going through your head as soon as you read that sentence. I just hope you remember that I was annoying growing up, but I stopped lying to you a long time ago. I couldn’t, thanks to you always being able to tell if I tried, even if it was to keep a surprise party a secret. Regardless of what you believe it is the truth.
That was accurate. I think being his twin, I had this sixth sense as to when he was trying to pull the wool over my eyes. By the time we were eight Deven truly had given up lying to me. I knew all of his dirty secrets. I had a few of my own, but my brother’s wild streak gave me a whole bank of things to use as blackmail if needed. I’m sure my parents would cringe at some of the spontaneous things he did and dragged me along to experience.
I could tell you the details of our conversations over the weeks once I started talking to Jelah, but that would be tedious and ultimately unimportant. From the beginning her voice was mesmerizing to me, and I likely would have jumped into a boat that first day if I hadn’t initially thought I was losing my mind. What sold me that everything was real was after the first day the conch rang. Not like a telephone ring, but there was a definite signal coming from the shell so I picked it up out of curiosity. To my surprise, it was Jelah. After that, we communicated for about ten weeks.
What started her reaching out to me was supposed to be Jelah’s way of fulfilling her role to perpetuate stories of mermaids by drowning someone to keep her people safe from humans. She had plans to lure me to the ocean and complete her task, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it, especially not after talking to me.
“I can’t believe that is actually real,” I said aloud, though I wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement.
“You mean any more than finding out your brother is a…merman?” Josh asked.
I had no answer.
Jelah revealed the truth and admitted she still wanted to meet me. I told her what had happened with my accident and that it would be impossible for me to do so since it would involve me walking to the shoreline. That was when Jelah revealed she had magic, like all mermaids, and she could replace my broken legs—give me a new life. I just had to get myself to the ocean.
I told her I would have to think about it. Please believe me, Evy, when I say that I seriously thought about leaving everyone I loved behind. You, mom, and dad meant—mean—everything to me and I had to really convince myself that Jelah’s offer was my chance at a new life. It offered me the ability to move freely again and explore like I once did.
“Are you kidding me!?” I slammed the paper down onto my desk. “He had to convince himself? How selfish could he get?”
“Not that I agree with what Deven did, but you wouldn’t have let him leave, Evy,” Josh said.
“So! He shouldn’t have gotten to make a decision like that!” I was livid.
That was actually his excuse, that he just didn’t want to be bound by a wheelchair anymore? He let me and our parents believe he was dead all so he could be mobile again? I’m not sure I could forgive him if any of this was the truth.
“Actually, he did. I know he hurt you, Evy, but Deven lost the use of his legs, not his mind.”
I took a deep breath. “Just go away, Josh. I don’t want to hear this right now.”
Chastised, he left the room without saying another word. He knew when I was seeing red and when to step away. I loved Josh, but I really didn’t like it when he played devil’s advocate, and he always seemed to do it when I was upset. After years of marriage, I knew it was his way of trying to get me to think clearly, but it was not appreciated as of this moment.
Deven disappearing was still a knife wound to the chest. If all of what he was saying was true, then this was the most unloving thing he could have done to me and to our parents. My brother always was one to run away or avoid his problems, but this was just too much.
He had taken it too far.
How dare he.
I sat there for a while, fuming. If he was sitting in front of me right now, my selfish brother would be getting a piece of my mind. I can only recount two other times in my life that I was this angry with Deven. I would love more than anything to punch him right now. I took several deep breaths to try and calm myself. I needed to finish the letter and that would not be possible if every word was rimmed in red.
If you’re anything like I remember, you are angry with me for a whole host of reasons. I understand, and all I can say now is that I’m sorry I hurt you. At the time I concluded it was an easier burden to bear that I had gone on one of my spontaneous adventures and gotten lost. It is the biggest regret I have for leaving the way I did. After years of thought, I realize now I should have written some sort of letter, at the very least, said goodbye.
Please know that you, mom, and dad are in my thoughts every day. I have not written them a letter. It is not out of cowardice, but compassion that I avoid reaching out to them. If you wish to share this letter with them, do so, but I trusted you—my twin—with my fate. You always understood me better than anyone.
That is a guilt trip and a half if I ever read one, I thought.
I cannot say I would choose differently if time could be reversed. I love the life I’ve chosen here on the bottom of the sea. I have witnessed things no one else will because of the depths. I’ve done something that many who were in my position only dream about. You were always the practical one, and whether I said it or not I appreciated that about you. Just this once, though, I want you to be impractical. To believe in magic and that something fantastic really did happen to me, because magic is real, Evy.
This letter is too little too late, and you’re allowed to be angry with me for what I’ve done, the dark depths know I would be angry (and infinitely jealous that you were having an adventure without me) were our situations reversed. If you choose to ignore everything else, please at least remember this. Don’t let my desire to escape my reality stop you from doing things with wild abandon; like my loss of self-preservation when I jumped into the middle of the ocean hoping there truly was a mermaid waiting for me. I’m not there anymore to push you into doing things you wouldn’t choose to do, but I hope there is still a piece of me alive on land through my awesome twin. My abandonment should not rob you of your joy as the loss of my legs did to me. I’m happy and I want you to be happy, too.
I love you forever, my favorite Pokemon.
I sat back, unable to process everything my brother had written. The letter had taken a turn I wasn’t expecting. Had his disappearance robbed me of my joy? I’m not sure I have ever sat down long enough to really think about it. I felt like I had still gone and done things from time to time that would have made Deven proud, but admittedly not like when he was around and before his accident. After I married Josh, I dedicated myself to my students wholeheartedly, but I still went on vacations during the summer and winter breaks. That should count for something, right? I reread his last two paragraphs again, and like Archimedes' sudden revelation in his bathtub, I realized I hadn’t done anything truly extravagant since Deven’s disappearance. Before we were engaged, Josh and I had gone on so many adventures because he and my brother both pushed me out of my comfort zone, but now on our vacations my husband did all the fun things while I sat on the sidelines taking pictures. I used to be the girl with the GoPro recording the action first hand.
Unconsciously, I must have built a fear around Deven’s cavalier attitude with life. Somewhere along the way I decided that, ultimately, spontaneity would make you lose the things you hold most precious.
I’d be lying if I said anything but anger still boiled in my gut at this letter; there was no doubt I was pissed at my long lost twin, if any of this was actually real, but his final words had still found their mark. They stung with truth about how my life had drastically changed since his… ‘death’.
It would take me time, and several more reads through the letter, before every word settled, and that was if I ever even chose to believe it, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t take Deven’s last words to heart and be a little more spontaneous in the meantime. I wasn’t ready to go cliff jumping, but I always got a thrill out of deep-sea diving. It was something I was relatively comfortable with, making it a good place to start.
Abandoning the letter, I shouted, “Josh, what do you think about a deep-sea dive trip to someplace we’ve never been?”
“That sounds fantastic! When do you want to go?” I could hear the ear-to-ear grin that accompanied his response.
Finding him on the couch, I leaned over to rest my chin on his shoulder. “Spring break is in two weeks.”
“Whoo! I’m looking for plane tickets right now,” he said with a fist pump before unlocking his phone.
Deven would be proud.