My name is not Santiago, but I could not help but feel related to the Hemingway character for a time back in the Spring of 2018. I took a trip with my wife to New York City that April and reveled in the mass of sights and activity that defines Manhattan in our cultural
consciousness. On one particular day, as my wife attended a conference, I grabbed a backpack containing the totality of my writing notes which I had brought along and snuck off to Central Park on the first warm day of the season.
I wanted to sit back and take in a softball game beneath the massive towers that bordered the park, and to expand my thick, green spiral of notes for a series of stories I had been working on for years. I wanted to know that some of it - the most important pieces - had coalesced in my mind while perched in that iconic place. But a day later, as I got out of a taxi on the rainy morning of our departure from New York, I left it all on the dark floor of a cab as I ran for cover from the damp. When I realized what I had done - when I turned to rush after my incubating novel babies - they were gone in the sea of humanity that raced along the streets of the city that never sleeps. I had lost it all.
In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's Cuban fisherman, Santiago, suffers from a long streak of bad luck in which he goes several months without a catch. To counter this streak and to inspire his fortune, Santiago decides to row out further than any other fisherman into more precarious waters and does in fact get what he is after. After a pivotal battle with a marlin, the old man prevails and celebrates his triumph of the moment. But, as it turns out, Santiago must then turn and face the true test of his fateful day. As he rows for home with the giant fish strapped to the side of his small boat, the old fisherman must fight off sharks as they slowly tear at his prize. By the time he reaches the beach, the marlin is gone and with it, the old man's special victory. After apologizing to the fish for having failed them both, Santiago summed up his loss with brutal simplicity. "I went out too far," he said.
Should I have taken every note that I had ever scribbled for my stories with me on a 2,000-mile trip just to anoint the paper they were written on with the magic of the beautiful green space at the heart of New York City? Probably not. A better question might be, why on Earth did I not make copies first? But I'll be honest. Like Santiago, there was something in the inherent danger of 'going out too far' with my precious posts that made the effort a pilgrimage.
In the end, after months of working through the shock of having lost so much material, I decided that Central Park had not stolen anything from me and my stupidity had not yet smothered my penciled babies in their crib. I went out and bought three new journals and immediately went to work recreating everything I could remember about these stories. Oddly enough, the texts actually got richer and more detailed with the comeback effort. They flowed from my fingers as if their worlds had actually come to life within me. Santiago, I began to realize, had lost his fish but still had the prize of his victory over the marlin in his memory. Even the sharks couldn't change that. And me? I had the opportunity to develop a more intricate - a more thoughtful - final three stories for my series.
It would seem that our struggles are the real prize in life. Without them, our days have no depth and our victories no meaning. We can be refined through our difficulties if we allow it and sometimes even when we don't. I didn't mean to lose myself in Central Park - to misplace my ego. I didn't recognize the need. Thank God New York did.
Book 3 in the series is scheduled to be released in December 2021.