I stepped outside and sat on the sea-worn wooden rocker, nursing a mug of tea, taking gingerly sips. The morning was crisp, the smell of salt hung heavy in the air. The sun was hidden behind a veil of mist; everything was shrouded in pale smoke. It was mostly silent, tranquil, apart from the crash of waves against the rocks beneath me and gulls hovering over me. The world looked like a water colour painting—simple and ethereal in its own charming way.
I inhaled the salty sea spray.
Once upon a time, you said we’d live by the ocean together in a little house on the cliff overlooking the waves and the lighthouse. I thought about the days we endlessly came up with plans, dreaming up schemes that we hoped someday would become reality.
And it did. For a while.
We floated and splashed about during the day, tummy facing the sky, reaching for the sun. I’d wonder what would happen if I let the ocean carry me away to the ends of the world. You thought I was being serious and wouldn’t let go of my arm the whole time. Then late at night, we’d lay on the sand and watch the stars; you joked about how we’d only last an hour outside at most before we died from the cold.
Serenading you by a dying campfire. You taking a midnight stroll on the shore, where I’d join you and we’d let the sea kiss our toes as we went. The little things in between brought the seams of our lives together.
I took sips of my tea and set the mug down when there wasn’t a single drop left. Still in my dressing gown and slippers, I descended the front steps and took a walk through the wooded area behind the house, heading to the place you dubbed your ‘corner of solitude’.
Mist clung to my ankles like shackles. I thought about how you would’ve gotten a kick out of that—me in my black, dressing gown, the signs of early morning grumpiness etched on my face.
“You look like a supervillain,” you would say with a giant grin on your face. “Except I can’t take you seriously at all!” Then you’d burst into fits of laughter.
A chuckle escaped my lips then. Funny. I could almost hear your voice just now.
I made it through the woods and faced your corner of solitude. Worn-stones, cross-gabled roof, carved wooden door with a cross resting on its front. I stepped inside.
The inside was as immaculate and desolate as I remembered it, dull sunlight crept in through the stained-glass windows, dyeing a portion the walls and tiles in a kaleidoscope of colours. Whoever was in charge of the upkeep of this place deserved an award. Or at least a raise.
I took a seat at the second row pew, directly across the crucifix—your favourite spot. I gazed past it and stared at the windows instead. There was nothing but the rumble of the ocean and the faint rustling of wind.
“Do you know what my mum used to tell me when I was feeling low?” you said. “She said, ‘I don’t blame anyone for feeling bad about themselves every once in a while, but put it this way. In a world where God created mountains, oceans, and forests, He said to himself, ‘You know, the world could use a little more wonder.’ So He created you.”
“But I don’t believe in God,” I told you.
“You don’t have to believe in God to believe in yourself,” you said. You rolled over to your side to face me, your hair a dark, cascading waterfall around your face. Your beautiful, smiling face. “I think you’re wonderful. Even if you don’t think so yet.
Later when you were fast asleep, I attempted to write you a poem. A bout of romance, as you called them. But I couldn’t come up with anything other than one line: ‘You are my light through stained-glass windows.’
I tore the page from my notepad, folded it, and slipped it in your hand, hoping that it was enough.
The next day, you took me to town and you had the words inked on your arm. So did I.
I opened my eyes, blinked. There was a chill in the room that sent the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck standing. The wind howled outside. How long had I dozed off?
I rose from my seat and glanced around, watched the last patch of sunlight disappear into cold greyness.
I headed outside, letting the door close behind me with a resonating clack.
* * *
Three hundred and twenty-two steps. Three hundred and twenty-two steps and exactly thirty-three more uphill to reach the spot where we knew that this was where we wanted to spend our future together—on the bench by the lighthouse.
The bench creaked when I lowered myself onto it, threatening to collapse under my weight. Granted, it was an old one, but it was sturdy. It lived through countless tempestuous sea storms.
The mist had mostly cleared, but the sky had turned a murky grey. The ocean roared in my ears, the wind an anguish wail. My gut feeling told me that another storm was coming.
The day you left was the day the lighthouse was declared too old to maintain. No boat or ferry ever came by the cliffs anymore, anyway. It’s been dilapidated ever since.
When I laid my hand beside me, my fingers brushed against some notches. I looked down and saw our initials framed in a heart with an arrow through it carved onto the wood.
Cheesy, I know. But you loved cheesy. You fumbling with my pocket knife as you tried to carve a line, me endlessly worrying that you were going to cut yourself. You laughing and pressing your lips onto mine, whispering, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Trust me.’
I bit my lower lip and cradled my head in my hands, as though that could stop the memories from rushing back to the forefront of my mind.
They say if you love something, let it go. But they never tell you how.
When the carving was done, you handed my back my knife. You shivered then, and I draped my blanket over you, holding you close. Your smile couldn’t compare to the stars that night.
I watched the breeze kiss your skin. I breathed it in.
I breathed you in.
The ocean is my siren, calling to me.
Darling, can you hear me?
Some days I look beyond the cliff, stare down at the tempestuous waves below me, threatening to smash me to pieces against the rocks. I wondered what that would feel like. Some days I was tempted to step off the edge and let gravity take over. My bones would have a taste of what it feels like to fly before everything turned to oblivion.
I headed back home and dreamt of days when I wasn’t all alone.