Once the tide receded, we could walk several kilometers out to sea. It is an eerie feeling because you know the water is out there still and will soon return. The sand was hard and smooth under our strides and pocked by small ponds here and there where fish paddled patiently waiting for the tide to return.
Though the sea was far away now, we had been warned that it would come in quickly when it did and that if we were to lose track of the time it would be our peril.
Two boys from shore, seeing us head out, tagged along. They did not say anything but hung close to us. We were a small band of wanderers on a sea of sand. If we tried to talk to them, they fell back without answering. But ten minutes later they would be back right behind us. We let them be.
When the ship was abandoned here, men from elsewhere came out in crumbling trucks and cut a gaping hole in the ship to remove its cargo. Over two weeks they worked while the tide permitted. The ship no longer mattered and would be left to rust. It would never float again but only sink deeper and deeper into the sand.
During this time, the people on the shore watched with interest as the men off-loaded the cargo. After they had hauled everything away, the people still stared. Eventually, someone wandered out to the ship. Soon everyone from the town was gathered in its shadow. Then they all scurried back to shore when the tide started rumbling in the distance.
For a while, the Desdemona was the center of attention. It was as if an emissary from another world had arrived. It was something to celebrate. The townspeople would organize picnics beside the ship, boys kissed girls there, marriages were proposed and even one couple – forbidden from marrying in the church due to a bulging stomach (probably contracted in the ship’s hull) — said their vows right there.
But as the years went by, its metal plates rusted and people lost interest. Those who remembered the night The Desdemona arrived still told the story of the storm and the dazed men who showed up the next morning. But in time the ship just became a feature on the horizon, something people stopped noticing. Eventually it was only the children who could see the ship anymore. They became its caretakers.
When we finally reached the Desdemona, we just stood there with the two boys by our side. We stared up at her, not knowing what to do. One child gestured for us to follow him and he lead us around to the open gash in the Desdemona’s side. He showed us where to step and clambered up into the hold and waved for us to do the same. We did.
Inside, there was nothing except rusting steel and some cement bags that had turned to rock on the ship bottom. It was cold and inhospitable and smelled of oxidation but the kids’ eyes were big and excited and their faces expectant. They were looking at us, wondering if we adults could see all the things they were seeing in that wreckage.