I sat on my towel, on the sand, watching the calm, blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Feeling the soft breeze flowing from the Gulf to the shore in the early morning, while the ground was still colder than the water.
I closed my eyes, and felt what little hair I had left moving in that breeze. I felt the sunshine on my face. I listened to the quiet, calm surf of the Gulf. I’d told her, once, it was like the Gulf was a giant swimming pool, with calm water, and peaceful waves.
Sitting there, it was like I could reach out, take her hand, feel her fingers interlace through mine, feel the warmth of her skin, the delicate, graceful lines of each finger. It was, of course, nothing more than a memory. I’d never see her again, at least, not in this world. No one would ever see her again.
She was gone. Beyond the veil of life. Where I couldn’t yet follow. Where I couldn’t yet reach.
But every year I returned to the Gulf. To her favorite strip of sand. She’d always loved it there. I used to watch her get up before the sun, spray herself down with insect repellent, and walk out to the shore in her swimsuit, barefoot, with nothing but an old Wal-Mart shopping bag.
I used to follow her out, taking a long, two-hour walk on the shore. I always saw her as I walked out and back. She’d be there, up to her ankles in the Gulf’s waters, peering into the sand, looking for shells. And I always loved to watch her. Such a simple thing, searching for shells at the beach. Most people would ignore her.
They never saw what I saw. The brilliant blue light shining in her eyes. A light that I could never see enough. A light connected to my heart. The gentle smile on her face that said everything in the world was OK. That made me feel alive.
Sitting on the sand every year, I always wished I could see her one more time. Watch her searching for shells, with her eyes so very much alive, and he smile driving away all the hurt and pain of the world.
I couldn’t. I knew that. She was gone.
All I could do was sit on the sand. And remember.
All the times we’d visited the Gulf. All the times I’d walked along the water’s edge with her, holding her hand in mine. All the times the world just went away, and left me alone with her. Happy. Every year I took long walks by the water. Watching the clouds and the calm, relaxing waves. Remembering the days my heart was still alive. The days my soul still cared for life.