There are days when my mind just goes back. It goes back. And back. And I can’t stop it. And I think. I remember. The blades of grass that seemed so tall back then, dandelions swaying in the wind, gently kissed by the orange brilliance of the setting sun. Butterflies, ladybugs, bumblebees. Summer. I can smell the sea. I see myself descending a slope. My bare feet meet the cold sand. It’s a dark gray in the shade of the rustling trees holding branches above my head. For a moment, the sky is gone. The dark corridor takes me lower and lower, traces of old wooden steps visible beneath the sand. I pick up a stick. It might come in handy. And then, I finally see the light. I leave the tunnel, the sand becomes golden in the sky stained by the sun sinking. It makes its slow descent into the dark, impatient waves of the ocean that are always ready to embrace its scarlet companion once again. The breeze assaults my face. Overwhelmed, I finally manage to breathe in. I smell the water. I rush down the sand, leaving holes behind me. I pant and raise my head. I realize that I am alone.
That’s when he runs down.
I hear his shallow breath, his paws digging into the sand with muffled thuds as he makes his descent down the corridor of darkness. A big, slender, black dog, his tongue swaying as he runs towards me, his brown eyes glimmering in the sunlight. I extend my arms to greet him. His fur is warm, dry, not a trace of the wounds I remember he had. He licks my face. It’s warm, wet. I’ve missed that. He sits down, looking at the sea, anxiety written all over his doggy face. He looks back at me. I show him the stick I’m holding. I throw it into the sea. Hesitantly, he walks towards the water. The moment it makes contact with his skin, he jumps up and starts wagging his tail. He runs into the water, the waves make him move more clumsily than ever. He was a terrific swimmer, though. He truly loved water. Then he reaches the stick. He makes his way back to me.
The sun has set. The sky turns a deep blue. There’s more stars than I could ever see in the city. I hear someone strumming the strings of a guitar. The tune calls me back, but I don’t want to leave. I fear he’ll be gone again. My mind drifts away and I wonder. Would he really have liked the sea? I never did get to find out. But I like to think he would. I told him all about it. And he really did love water.
I stand up and give him one final scratch on the ear. He’s barely visible in the darkness of the night. He looks like a black blob in the sand. He seems so small. I lean down and embrace his neck one last time. Then I turn away. I go back to the tunnel. Never looking back. The dark corridor is darker than before. I break a toenail on the wooden step. I can’t tell if it’s bleeding or not. But I finally make it through. The orange streetlights are cold and unwelcoming. But I know they’ll take me home.