My legs move slowly. I breathe heavily. At first glance it seems like nothing’s changed here. The air still has the same, familiar, a little salty taste. The same summer wind gracefully strokes my silvery hair, demolishing its order and I absolutely don’t mind. I’ve missed the breeze in my face. I’ve missed the appealing, slow-paced life at the seaside.
Despite the crowds that visit this small town at this time of the year, when I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can hear the distant humming of the waves crashing against the shore and the squealing of the seagulls hovering over the raging sea.
Here it is, the place where I’ve spent half of my life. The place filled to the brim with memories. The place where I know every alley like the back of my hand.
The place I chose to abandon as a young woman, strong and with so much yet ahead of me. Oh, look at me now—old as the hills, stoop-shouldered and weak.
It’s still good to be back.
When you decide to leave, people say: “Never look back, don’t think about the past, focus on the right now and the future“. They tell you that the past is in the past and that’s where it shall stay, that you can’t change it and therefore it’s meaningless.
However I, with my sentimental nature and my lack of ability to forget, remembered everything. And when nobody was watching, when I was alone, sometimes I looked back. I looked back at the life I once lived. And I had to remember, I had to keep those memories alive. If I let them die, a part of me would have died with them.
And even now, when I close my eyes and listen to the wind and waves, when I feel the heat of the golden sand under my bare feet, I can still see her.
The red haired girl—waves of red bordering her tiny freckled face, with green lively eyes eager to take in as much of the world as they could. No, she wasn’t a beauty queen, but guess what? She didn’t care. She was too busy chasing after the wind.
Well, the only thing that drove her crazy about her was that red hair. It was always so unmanageable, never properly straight and never properly curly. And she hated the color. She hated it up until the point when he said it suited her fiery, uncontrollable self. And when she complained she’d rather have neat curls instead of those poor waves, he laughed and said: “Do you ever look at the sea and wish these waves were curls?”.
You could always easily change my mind like that, no matter if it was silly hair problems or a matter of life and death.
Now, making slow steps in the sand, I smile at that memory of us—young and careless, spending all days on the wild beach, away from the noisy town full of tourists. We escaped to our secret places where we could just be ourselves. We stayed out late and this one time our parents almost reported us as missing to the police. We came home at four in the morning and I was grounded forever.
But then you left. So unexpectedly and without warning. Leaving me, this crowded town that suddenly became empty, leaving the waves glidding in the sun… Ripping a hole in my fiery heart.
You left me with all the unspoken words, words I didn’t get to squeeze inbetween the lines of our countless conversations. I didn’t get to say that one, most important thing I ever had to say.
They told me to bury the past as they buried your body. I couldn’t take it, walking down the streets without you. Feeling the wind blow through my hair and the waves crashing against my body—it all gave me no pleasure anymore. The sunsets, cotton candy and coke bought at the booth by the promenade would never taste the same, too.
So partially I listened to that silly advice they gave me, “Let go of the past”.
Yes, I left, not looking over my shoulder even once, not looking back at the town I was leaving behind and the people waving goodbye. But the thought that leaving can make you feel less pain is the most naive and stupid thought one’s mind can ever produce.
After a journey of a few hours I found myself in a foreign place with foreign faces surrounding me, with no sea-breeze, no sand between my toes, no humming of the waves. There I was supposed to find my future.
However, let me tell you the truth. You cannot just take a rubber and erase what already happened, start from zero, with a blank page. Nothing is ever forgotten, not even when you try your very best not to remember. There are always things that at completely random times will remind you about something buried at the bottom of your mind. It’ll make you want to grab a shovel and dig it all up and hold it close to your heart. And I’ll tell you one more thing: never let it go. Don’t ever let it slip out of your hands, even if it hurts. It’s supposed to hurt. And the past is not meaningless at all. It matters. The past creates the present and the present is what the future is built on.
So I remembered. Remembered every single thing, good and bad, taking care of my memories that took me back to the time when things were easy and when we thought they would stay that way forever.
As I lay in bed at night, with my husband sleeping beside me and my children in the next room, I let my thoughts wander and I let tears flow from my eyes. I wondered if you were out there somewhere, living with the stars, looking down at me and keeping me a nice spot in heaven or wherever it was that you went. I wondered if you heard me.
If my voice could reach through the clouds, I’d scream for you to look at me. Look at me now as you looked me back then. I’m here. Waves raging all around me, with the wind in my tired wrinkled face. Look at me now—back in the place where I started. Where we started.
Everything’s still the same and yet so different. Some things once lost are never found again.
You need to know I fought hard not to let my fire die. But I might have lost it somewhere along my journey. Sacrificed it for a happy ending—when I still believed in those. If I’ve learned something, it’s that you don’t really have much say in either how you begin or how you end. Life just sort of throws you wherever it wants to; it’s like a lottery. All you can ever really get, if you try hard enough, is a decent middle. And I’m grateful for mine.
I’ve never found perfection in my life and to be honest, I’ve never really looked for it. But I’ve found peace. Learned to appreciate the life by the side of a man who has loved me and treated me well and who has been a good father to the children we raised together. And I’ve learned to love him. But Lord knows you were the one.
I hope you knew, too.
Do I regret? There’s always something we regret; something we did that we’d never do again could we only turn back time, or something we didn’t do when we had the chance. But all that makes our life what it is. We can’t see into the future and even if we could, I wouldn’t change much.
I don’t regret that you were the one who broke my heart.
Wow, that was long! I had it in my head for a while and the Inspiration Monday prompt kind of pushed me to do something with it. I’m not sure whether I like it or not, but I’ll just leave it for you to judge.