I began a new life. As much as one can call that a beginning, at least. The world is ever fluctuating these days. I believe I don’t have it in me to keep up. Can I really call something a beginning or an end if there is no constant?
The train ride was dragging on forever. The gray sky seemingly motionless against the dry grass, every blade I managed to catch with my eye immediately replaced with a new one. The sky, the only constant in the grass’s frantic trek. Suddenly, a coast, a vast ocean a deeper shade of gray. It was gone in fourteen and a half seconds, obscured by a dark, constantly speeding wood.
I soon arrived at the station. No one was there to greet me. Not that I expected it. The town had undoubtedly changed in the past thirty years. But it was our special place. Even if it was no longer how I remembered it, even if all our favorites spots were gone, defiled by a new generation, I knew it was still our place. It had to be.
I called a cab and shoved the driver a piece of paper where I had written the address. He helped me with my bags. He seemed just a tad younger than me, but just as worn out, with the face of a blunt, uneducated simpleton. We made some small talk. I told him I was a retired professor with my three children all grown up and families of their own, each in a different state. That I now just wanted some peace and quiet on my own, in a place I remembered fondly. He never asked me about my wife. How deceiving looks can be.
On the way I took note of some of our favorite spots. To my delight, most were still there. The mermaid statue, the old café, the windmill on the hill. I covered my lips with my hand as they trembled. I could see us again, young and free, taking silly photos with the statue, as I prudently covered up its exposed breasts. Drinking disgusting local coffee that was so sickeningly sweet that it reached a point of being so dreadful it was amazing. Cuddling by the windmill, stargazing until we froze almost to death.
We finally arrived. A small wooden cottage at the edge of a forest, just the way we left it, thirty years ago. The sky visible between the trees was gray no more. I could see hints of blue shyly peeking between the thick branches. I paid the cab driver and thanked him for the help. He drove away, and I kept standing there, staring at the trees. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t take one step toward the cabin, I couldn’t pick up the luggage. I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I ran into the forest. The jog quickly turned into a sprint, the branches scratched at my coat and face, I was pretty sure my cheek was bleeding. But I ran regardless. The pain in my right knee was of no consequence. I just ran ahead, nothing could stop me. I felt young and free again. For an instant, that is. I tripped and landed face-first in the dry leaves. My glasses had shattered, my knee was throbbing. The leaves muffled out my laughter. I couldn’t stop laughing. With no little effort, I sat up. I was near the edge of a cliff. The ocean was a deep indigo with a single yellow stripe down the middle. The sky, a lighter shade of blue with a slightly orange hue near the horizon, was huge and vast, endless, ubiquitous. For a second I thought it was just me and the sky. The next second, it was just me and her, sitting by the cliff again, watching the sunset. We were immortal, we were endless, never ending. We had all we would ever want or need, we knew all and the world was our oyster.
Now it was no longer our oyster. She’d found her pearl and moved on to the open waters. Why couldn’t I have joined her? I keep asking myself that, and yet, I don’t think I have it in me to do that. She would hate me if I’d done that, anyway. I can tell she’s angry at me even now for just thinking it. So I won’t. I’ll wait. Or rather, I’ll look for my pearl. Once I do, I’ll breach the open waters and find her again, if it’s the last thing I do.
But there’s just one thing I was hoping I could tell you before you leave for good.
Thank you. For everything.