I remember his skin, tanned to an almost coconut brown, and his hair line, going up and up and up on his forehead. He sat at the end of the bar my uncle built, the one downtown where the tourists went. He drank, often. He sat on the last stool, the one closest to the phone. His stool, where they could find him if the call came.
He kept a gold coin in his pocket. He’d bring it out when one of the tourists seemed to have enough money. He even let them hold it for a few seconds. Gold from the bottom of the sea, treasure just waiting to be picked up by the right man. All they needed was the money to keep looking, keep searching. They’d find the rest of it soon, if they could just hold on a little longer. They might even find it today.
He sat on that bar stool waiting, pulling along the investors, trying to keep the ship in gas, the salvage crew paid. I’d watch him drinking, watch him repeating the same story over and over again, today’s the day. It’s going to be today.
But the phone never rang.
At five the ships came back. All over the island men coated in saltwater and sun found their way home. The docks smelled like blood as men cleaned fish, seagulls crying for the discards. Tourists headed to dinner, anxious to finish in time to see the sunset in Mallory square. Eventually the men of my family got off work. Some uncle or my father would carry me home from the bar where I’d watched an Aunt sling drinks, trying not to stare at the treasure hunter. Today hadn’t been the day.
Years later, returning to the island as a tourist I saw the treasure he finally found. The state tried to take it, his son died, and many, many days that weren’t the day passed away before he picked gold coins from the sandy waters. Now I’m the one waiting for the call, hoping the next ring will be my agent. I’m waiting for today to be the day.