I had a name once. I wish desperately that I could remember it, but I can't even think of the first letter or a familiar sound. I suppose it has washed away in the years I've stood here else I'd tell it to you, but frankly, I'm as old as they come and my memory is nearly useless. In all my time that I've held vigil over this place, I've had more important things to do than to keep track of names.

For instance, it is my duty to defend the shoreline of the Outer Banks. The beaches look as serene as Zen garden, but beneath them lay rocks with serrated teeth just waiting to taste the barnacle-clad underside of a passing ship. Before me, the rocks would gobble up the boats until driftwood was more common than fish, but since I have come to muzzle their gaping jaws with only a lamp, they've become starved, contorted masses of stone, smoothed by the currents and quelled by the salt.

Despite my fine work, a ship or two had unfortunately been smitten to splintery pieces in the cove. My light was shining, so why they wandered in I'll never know, and they sailed right into the heart of the maelstrom, and the rocks surged up in waves to rip the wood off the framing. The men were battered against the shore or sucked beneath the surface; even I have cringed in the salty tingle of the ocean spray, and to be caught in the middle of it puts me ill at ease.

Luckily, my keeper was able to salvage two or three of the half-crazed survivors from the wreckage of one of the ships. One of the men happened to be the captain, and he drew his pistol when my keeper's rowboat approached him, threatening to shoot if he tried to rescue him. Even when my keeper wrestled the gun from his hands, the man swam to the depths and never returned. The other two were nursed back to health and applied for a job at the town harbor, thanks to my keeper.

I don't even remember his name, my keeper, I mean. I want to say it was Scott, but that's not right. He was Scottish though. He had those burning blue eyes and the wavy black hair that most Scotsmen do, and his accent gave him away easily. He was square of jaw and pointed of chin with a shadowy stubble that swept out from his sideburns. He always got up at the crack of dawn to replace the oil and wash the windows; when he was finished, he'd dangle his legs over my side and we'd pray a Rosary together, alternating series of Mysteries every week. He was a pious man, but also a lonely one.

I remember him specifically because he cared for me like a child, but not shamefully so. I was more of a handicapped friend. He'd climb the stairs whistling and hang his lantern on the hook before setting about his duties, replacing the oil, cleaning the windows, polishing the lens, organizing the drawers and such, talking to me all the while. He spoke of all the gossip that he'd heard in the town and tell me everything that he'd wanted to say; he was scathingly witty yet strangely sensible in his remarks. On occasion, he would bring the pastor of the local Roman Catholic church up and they'd talk politics and other worldly affairs, but when the pastor left, he'd always try to convince my keeper to find a girl and settle down. He'd always say, "Amen to that," and walk him down. I don't think he had any particular need for a girl, at least not for the purpose of settling down, as he was as rooted to me as I was to the ground

Then one day there was a girl. When they caught my eye walking up the path, arm in arm, I immediately flashed my light on them. He smiled at me with a blush in his cheeks and she giggled happily, pointing at my lens turret. They climbed the stairs slowly, and for the first time, he was dumb and slow, laughing like a madman and smiling almost witlessly.

Heaven knows what her name was. He only referred to her as 'Her' and I'd swear no one mentioned her name to me even once. She was intelligent and kind. She'd fix a lunch for the two of them to share and they'd swing their legs over my side and talk for hours. Her conversation was droll and funny, and I immensely enjoyed her visits. She'd tape notes for him to find in the hub, small scrawls of thanks or emotion. Not once did they quarrel—it was good to see someone else just as cheerful as him up in my tower.

Eventually, as I expected, he announced his intentions to marry her. When the pastor came up the next time, they chattered endlessly about marriage preparations and things to come, and it was nearly dawn by the time they left. I couldn't wait for her to return so he could pop the question; to see the two of them together would be almost a consummation of my work at sea. Just as I had safely guided boats away from harm, so I had guided them together. My metaphorical and literal lamps would be joined.

When the two of them climbed my tower, vibrant and giddy, I was near exploding with anticipation. The wind was whipping through the tower like the very breath of God and the air had sharpened to a frosty chill. She had just unpacked their midday meal when he went down on his knee and produced the meager ring from his coat pocket. She covered her mouth in surprises and stammered her acceptance; now, understand that she is a beautiful girl, but in that moment, the wonder than transformed her face made her saint-like, almost angelic. She kissed him, and I could feel the love emanating from them in a crackling sphere of electricity, zipping through the cold like bent arrows. They sat together, fingers clinging to the others as if a hammer were driving them apart, watching as the sun did battle with the horizon and sighing in reluctance as the it bowed in defeat.

She told him that she would go to the mainland the next day to shop for a wedding dress. Together they danced down the stairs, kissing and flirting until they reached the bottom, when they had a last long one and he bid her goodbye. He floated back to his house, singing at the top of his voice into the scream of the wind.

When the spray crashed against the eastern side of me, I immediately thought of her at sea. She was on a boat somewhere, standing on the very tip of the bow, hair jumping into the wind. She was letting the wind carry her away, light and limber from excitement. That was how my keeper was when he waltzed up the stairs, cleaned the oil tray, scrubbed the windows, and sat down to our rosary—light as a feather and brimming with happiness for life. To see him so full and alive was invigorating; I was delighted for him.

He prayed that her waters would be soft and sweet and that their wedding would be 'as wonderful as she'. He put a new energy into his work when he polished my lens, whistling a love song to himself and occasionally bouncing in time with the beat. He went down to fix himself lunch and brought up his dinner, talking to me. He told me how happy he was going to be, names for their children, and promised me that the two of them would always take good care of me, so long as I was his to care for. I felt no jealousy towards her at all, and, when he spoke of her like this, I only fell more in love with the idea of their marriage.

As the night wound on, however, the skies began to roil with thunder. Lightening framed the darkening clouds with a foreboding crackle, and the first drops of rain began to fall as the sun was swallowed behind the fronts falling into the storm. He retreated to the safety of the stairwell, the beads of the rosary rushing through his fingers like water from a fountain.

Her ship appeared on the horizon as a black speck against an oceanic skyline though gradually swelling into the noticeable form of a boat, sails rising from the black blob like a hazy fog. It dipped and recoiled as it tottered haplessly towards the shoreline. I flashed my lantern in warning, for they were close enough for me to see the confused crewmen scuttling about on deck, desperately trying to follow the captain's orders.

Sleet picked up, hurtling gusts of wind and ice at the poor ferry struggling to stay on the surface. A sail was brutally wrenched from its mast and blew away in the wind, and the captain was now bellowing commands to the inept crew. Thunder roared over his words and the men looked at each other, helpless.

My keeper fell against one of the windows, peering through the glass with tears in his eyes. Her was now praying loudly and erratically, desperately pleading for the storm to pass and release his fiancée from the fist of the squall. If anything, the rain doubled and the waves reared high over the unlucky boat. Water washed the crew off board and the rocks sniffed at the carnage, the smell of blood piquing their senses and rousing them awake. They opened their mouths and waited silently for the waves to blow it into position.

My keeper was screaming curses as he re-climbed the stairs and braved the wind. He called her name! I can't remember it. He threw the rosary to the wind and told her he loved her, asked her to come back home. But she extracted herself from his grip, stepped back, and the rocks shredded her to pieces. Wood and sail rolled into splintered heaps and the passengers burst across the cove like dropped rice. I couldn't find her in the wail of the wind or the tantrum of the waves, but I knew she was there. She suddenly seemed less real as the storm cleansed the cove with a light rain, the surface clearing and returning to its placid self as the sun lifted over the horizon.

Slowly, my keeper alighted my tower. He was cold and wet as he made his way towards the beach. The sand was usually smooth and soft, but it was now riddled with fragments of the ship and the remnant tatters of the sail were strewn carelessly across the beach, collecting in sopping mounds. He stood there amongst the wreckage, weeping quietly, until a rush of ocean unfurled on the beach, a fleshy bundle tumbling out with the water.

Her once lively features were unnervingly still. The light in her face was gone. As he gathered her in his arms, I saw the comatose flop of her limbs and the lifeless expression sprawled across her figure. The water had washed the blood away and the salt had closed the wounds, but she was still covered in teeth marks from the bloated rocks, which had feasted until they were nearly bursting with food. She looked like she had been spit back out from their very stomachs.

The white dress draped elegantly around her body was matted and soggy. He cleaned the sand from the embroidered bodice with a meticulous sadness before holding her in his lap and looking out to sea. It was, in a way, nice to see them together on their wedding day, but I had envisioned joy and hope, not loss and despair. The metaphorical lamp had gone to sleep; there was no internal warmth to defrost me from the freezing aftermath of the storm.

He set her on the sand and pushed her hair out of her face. Grabbing a piece of wood, he began to carve out a depression in the sand. At last, the hole was deep enough for him to softly lay her in, and she fit neatly into the palm of the beach. There was no sleepiness about her empty face, just vacancy. She was hollow. She was gone.

He leaned over her and kissed her softly on the forehead. Then, sobbing and angry, he quickly shoved all the upset sand over her, and she disappeared beneath the waves. For a makeshift tombstone, he planted the board he'd used to dig at the top of the pile.

There was a heaviness about him as he stumbled to his feet, his eyes transfixed on the mound before him. I could see the conflict inside him like it was a vulture perched on his shoulder. I could feel the brick of my walls sink a few feet, calling out to the soil, seeing if she would reach through the sand to touch me one last time. There was nothing. I felt nothing. He felt nothing.

He ran. He ran up through the underbrush, up the lane towards me, up the stairs, and onto my turret. He ripped his wedding ring form his finger without even a second thought and tossed it in the oil tray. He fell to his knees, the weight of the world pressing on him and the vulture pecking at his heart, and wept. The salt from his tears merged with the spray off the ocean and marched down his cheeks until they'd chaffed from it all.

He was a broken man now. I'd known him since he was a naive teen, and now here he was, split in half. I've never seen any person so painfully divided between love and life, and maybe the waves will claim me before I do again. There were no words of comfort I could send him. My light had gone out.

He got to his feet and sniffed away the tears. Then, with the bar to the ledge held tightly in his fists, he swung his body over the side, pivoting to face my extinguished lamp one last time.

As he let go, he told me my name.