I just got home from the beach, it was windy with soft waves as the sun began to rest on an otherwise warm late summers day. I needed to wash the days work from me, the body was sore from last nights exercise and salt water is always good to cleanse cuts. It was just myself and some people in the distance, as I walked to the waters edge, I noticed a slender figure standing perfectly inside the suns glare. I steered to avoid them, setting my towel onto the sand.
The water greeted me with a crash, I dove and spun while enjoying its cold embrace. As I rose I noticed the lone figure standing on the waters edge watching me and the waves, she was lean, bald and her posture frail. Even at a distance I could tell that she was unwell. I finished my swimming and returned to my towel.
“How was it?” she asked.
“I will miss it,” she smiled.
“It will miss you more,” I said clumsily.
She nodded and swayed a little, it was hard to tell how old she is. Perhaps thirty though easily underweight by a good ten or so kilograms on her already slight frame.
“When are you allowed to go back in?” I asked.
“I don’t think I will have much time to be honest.”
“Did you get your ankles wet?” I asked.
“I just felt like watching,” the water rolling in a few steps away from her toes.
I put my towel down and sat on it. We watched together. She stepped closer to the waters edge, the incoming foam and seawater splashed across her feet. I pretended not to notice until she turned to face me, “will you go in again?”
“I think I will” I stood up and walked in, diving a few times as I turned I saw that she had come in up to her waist. Though the waves were not heavy and hard, they swayed her frail body. She smiled wide, running her fingers into the water, letting it rush her stomach and across her body so that her clothes were soaked.
We left the water, I offered her my towel. She dried herself gently with it, I then noticed her white skin, we could almost have been two different species, one hairy, thick and tanned. The other lean, pale and hairless. All that separated us was fate,, I was fortunate and she had been dealt a cruel hand. She smiled with her thin lips, “It was nice and cold”
We exchanged names as we watched the sun lower onto the horizon.
“I should get home, Mum and Dad will kill me if they know I’ve been out in the sun this long.”
“Are you far?”
“Not really, I am staying with my parents just a few streets over.”
“I am a local as well”
We walked from the waters edge to the nearby shower, she washed the salt and sand from her legs.
“What do you do for work?” She asked.
“I do a lot of not very much. Today I worked with a carpenter though I am a tad eclectic with the things I do. What about you?”
“I worked in a bakery and was studying.”
“What were you studying?”
“Nursing, I wanted to be a nurse, you know help sick people then I got sick.”
“When you get better, you can help others get better, you will have a better perspective. That was a lot of Better’s in one sentence. “
She laughed, “I don’t think I’m going to get better, cheers for your optimism though.”
We both walked in the same direction, I unlocked my Ute and watched her walk up the hill on the still warm pavement.
“You want a ride?”
She looked up the hill ahead then turned to me, “Only if you are going my way.”
I drove to her and cleared the front seat, “excuse the mess.”
“A man’s car is supposed to be disgusting.”
“Then welcome to the manly of man’s clunkers.”
We drove on, she guided me to her parents house. Once we pulled up she turned to face me, her eyes sunken with red rings underneath.
“Thank you for the ride and chit chat”
“It was my pleasure, listen I will swim again after work tomorrow if you want some company when you splash your ankles. “
“I wish, I can’t unfortunately. It was nice to meet you, have a long and healthy life.”
“I hope to see you in the future.”
She waved good bye, walked into the home that she very likely grew up in. Perhaps the home that she had just earlier broken out of, to see the beach one more time, a last time?
Sitting on my computer, making sure to write down the exchange. Recording a moment with a stranger that would otherwise be mundane. Nothing about her, or any life is mundane.
It’s days like today that I wish I still had faith, that I believed in a deity of universal comfort, a God. If I did, then I would pray for her, for her health, happiness and peace. Unfortunately I don’t have that comfort. Life is too precious and short.
I have had those close who have lost parents, suddenly and through terrible illness. I wish I had the ability to articulate and embrace them in a way to ease what they felt and feel. They suffered and endure with the humanity that only they know, isolated despite a world around them.
I have lost friends and family, suddenly and through their erosion of health. The future will ensure that more will follow. Life is so fragile that even the mundane becomes sacred. The petty insignificant. It is a chessboard of idiotic moves, failures and regrets. Pieces fall away because of our stubbornness and selfishness. Those that remain standing do so with a mortal weakness. Those that are lost, I wish I could say “I’m sorry” or as easily “I love you.”
Those who remain, it is only with a cowards refrain that those words struggle to come free. Thank you is all that remains. And now as I shall return to the beach again tomorrow, I will hope to see her wading in the water and some day swimming and diving in those waves, like she wanted to. The sand runs short for us all, I just hope that she still has plenty of grains left yet.