by Toti O'Brien

I understood. Finally.

First, the smell of the sea. Then the smell of fish, so intense along with the smell of bread, it meant life itself. Then the fragments of rope, the consistency of the sail: so sheer in the light, so solid to the touch.

I understood the sense of abandonment and where it came from. The terror of losing the one I loved each time he left, the uncertainty of his return. And the worship of the boat shielding him from the elements, bringing him safely home.

Now I knew why the harbor, lighthouse, foghorn, had such appeal. I had been the fisherman’s wife before, as were my mother, my mother’s mother, back through the centuries. Far into the memory of the island, buried by sand and pebbles I had trod on as a child, while I stared into a blueness only whispering freedom and possibilities, silent about its secret essence.

I had not learned yet how to spell the word loss. But it was engraved in my cells, it circulated in my veins. It just needed to unspool as a fishing line from its reel. My heart firmly hooked, already bleeding.

Music / video composition by Victor David Sandiego

Toti O’Brien’s work has appeared in Boston Accent, The Wax Papers, Thrice Fiction, and Between The Lines, among other journals and anthologies.


Toti O'Brien is a multi-talented woman. She is a beautiful lady who I am honored to know. This multi-media work and her words anchor in my heart a sense of longing and loss - a universal theme - whether a fisherman's wife or not. How do we know each day that the one we love will return safely whether surrounded by wood or metal; whether facing the endless sea or the streets of the concrete jungle.
Michelle Angelini, Aug 24, 2016
Beautiful! It touches one's soul.
JKopp, Jul 17, 2016
Toti, the directness and the longing expressed in this piece are fantastic. For me, what really brings it to life, is your reading. Your voice is very expressive, and it's a pleasure to hear how you, as the author, interpret the piece.
Victor D. Sandiego, May 23, 2016
I too cannot spell that word, thank you for this beautiful work!
Cynthia Low, May 23, 2016
Very nicely read. Thank you. The ending really makes it. I hope to read more of your work. The music adds a lot; kudos to all.
Bill Landon, May 08, 2016