…and again, I feel real regret.
Sober and alone, I sit on the beach. I watch couples walk together, play in the surf. Not all romantic couples…there’s a mother and child…over there, a brother and sister…their parents…but most of them….
I used to look out to the surf, the massive sea, and gaze in awed wonder, and smile. Now, perched alone on a sand dune, I look toward the sea, and something is different. I see things, but I’m not sure if they are really there. They must be there, if I can see them.
First, I see the silhouette of a couple, recently engaged. They walk barefoot in the surf, their jeans rolled up to the shins, holding hands. Ever the lady, she is still awkward with any lengthy, dramatic displays of affection. Nevertheless, he still manages to steal an occasional, powerful kiss. They continue on their walk after one of his stolen kisses turns into an embrace. As she talks about the frustrations of the rest of her life, he glances down at the ring on her finger and feels a warmth inside that he has not felt since he was a toddler falling asleep with his head on his father’s chest, the deep lullaby of his father’s voice – more vibration than sound. He feels the warmth of that vibration again for the first time in so many years and recognizes it immediately, and somehow remembers knowing as a child that he’d feel it again when he looked into the eyes of the woman he would marry.
I blink, and in that instant, they are now married and she is several months pregnant. They are now one, yet still perfectly individual. Now it is she who glances at the band on his finger and smiles, knowing that as long as he exists, she will never feel alone, and the she and their baby will always be safe. She smiles as she tries to imagine his eyes on a little boy or girl.
I blink again and now they walk with two toddlers. The children’s pants are rolled up now as they play with a puppy, their parents walking further up the sand from the surf. They all feel a warmth only they can know.
I strain to see their faces without looking into the setting sun behind them, but I can’t. Though I can’t be sure, even from their profiles, I hope and think that could be me.
I blink again and they are gone. The sun is almost gone, and as the tide comes in, the cold surf is getting alarmingly close.
It’s time to leave.
I blink again and shiver.