The Most Important Things

“He lay there holding her. It had been hours on a rainy Sunday afternoon in February, and as the hours passed so did the sunlight that peaked through the cracks of the blinds in their bedroom. He did not move from his spot beside her even as darkness filled the house. The minutes passed, evening came, and he did not turn on the light. He only watched her chest rise as it filled with air and she exhaled. And he held her tightly.”


Initially, I hoped to use these lines above in a short story about the most important things in life; not money, possessions, frivolous things that come and go, but people and the relationships we form with them. I think the lines suffice as they are.

I watch many films. Two of the most recent I’ve seen, Dunkirk and Darkest Hour, are complements to each other. Both films tell the story of Europe in World War II as Nazi Germany ran over the continent with an ease that borders on unimaginable now in 2018. With the U.S. choosing not to intervene until that point in the war, the United Kingdom was under imminent threat with the majority of its military stranded on Dunkirk beach in northern France. In the end, more than 330,000 soldiers were rescued by a fleet of civilian ships. While the war turned later, tens of millions of young men were dead by the time peace returned in 1945.

I have been thinking about those times, and how fortunate I am to live a peaceful life. It is easy as Westerners living in the 21st century to be lulled into deceptive comfort. But, even in its deceptiveness, many of our lives remain a relief compared to the hard ones lived by those in generations past. I think of the many young men who gave their lives to war and it makes me truly sad.

Oftentimes, I place so much value in things that are, ultimately, unimportant. In the face of death, illness or the many other ways tragedy transcends into our daily experiences, these things are insignificant. What is a new iPhone, an expensive suit, a home in the suburbs compared to people? I imagine the millions who die prematurely in war would give anything to spend a final moment in the arms of their lovers, at a table eating dinner with their family, or telling jokes at a bar with their friends. Yet it seems so often we overlook these most valuable relationships in our pursuit of other, lesser things.

The scene described above is an image of two lovers. It does not matter their location, ethnicity, age. It is what I imagine when I think of an important moment. It is moments like these that I will cherish above any possession, and that I hope to remind myself of when my mind grows tired from unfulfilled longings for what is ultimately fleeting and superfluous.

Short Story: The Boy in the Sand

The Sea and Sand Cover Photo
A local beach near the town of Juan Dolio in the Dominican Republic

In the sand nearby, the dark-skinned boy in tattered shorts sat looking out at the crashing blue waves of the Caribbean Sea. I sat close to the boy; only a few feet away (though he either didn’t notice me or was indifferent to my intrusion). I watched him as the rain fell on us and dripped down our clothes. I wondered if what we saw in that water was the same; if we were both daydreaming about the future or reminiscing about something from the past. I wondered about his dreams or maybe his heartbreak. The clouds overhead were dark and the rain kept falling on us, but the boy didn’t move. He leaned forward stoically, with his left arm resting on his raised knee, and kept his gaze on the empty distance in front of us.

To the left of us other boys were playing shirtless in the rain as the wooden boats of the local fishermen headed back to shore. One of the boats sped forward, crashed with the waves onto the beach, then settled. The fisherman jumped out to push the boat deeper onto the beach. The shirtless boys ran over, joined by other young men who were drinking rum under the palm trees, to see the catch and make offers before the older men from the stores bought up all the fish. The dark-skinned boy still didn’t move.

I thought about saying hello to the boy, but I resisted. There was some kind of peace in him that I didn’t know. I fidgeted, trying to soak in a moment of solitude away from the city, but ultimately failing to soak in much at all aside from the salty Caribbean water.

The other young boys ran over to me showing off the fish. “It’s loro,” they told me. “Parrot?” I asked them. “No, it’s a fish, it just looks like a parrot. Can’t you see that it’s a fish?” they laughed. The fish was a turquoise color with pink and yellow lines running along its mouth and body. It was a beautiful fish.

“Enrique, come play with us!” they yelled at the boy nearby. He turned to shrug them away, but one of them jumped on him and the others started dancing around in the sand trying to distract him and break his stoicism. I giggled at how happy the boys were. Enrique didn’t giggle; he got up.

Vamos,” he said. “Nunca me dejan en paz.” You never leave me alone.

The boys were still laughing and dancing. One of the boys held the dead fish the entire time as he shook his body and stuck his tongue out. They ran off and Enrique followed, walking slowly behind them and not turning back to look at the ocean again as they disappeared from sight.