A man's past is revealed to the present through an odd encounter.
|Glistening ocean water carried on for miles in front of him; reflecting the sunlight which had left its mark on Eliot far too many times. The water receded from the shore, over and over again it went. Rising, then falling. Eliot stood with his hands in his pockets, looking at a view he had become saturated with. The water didn’t have the same magic it had when he was younger. Its once pure enchantment had dissipated over the years, and Eliot couldn’t reclaim that faded wonder.
He continued his stroll along the sand as per usual every Saturday morning. Saturday mornings and an empty beach during the summer were never one and the same. Crowds of people were scattered every which way. Some talking, others fast asleep with their buttocks pointed straight up for the sun to shine down its wisdom. Beach bums—people he only recognized from the sandy shores—waved polite hellos as he passed by.
Eliot’s feet carried him towards the rocky jetty that protruded up in an incongruous pattern. The tallest rock maybe stood twelve feet, while the smaller ones weren’t even a foot high. The jetty was his personal area to climb upon and branch off into his own domain. He located a smooth rock, and sat with his face towards the sea.
Off in the distance were two boats weaving their own pathways along the water; their sails sometimes brushing past the sun’s light. They looked lost for a short second, but one followed the other. Where were they going? Eliot thought to himself. Nowhere too important. Where am I going? Nowhere too important.
Words then floated into his conscious thought.
“Do it. Just do it. Oh, c’mon you wimp.”
Eliot turned away from the water, and tried to spot where the voice came from. There stood about twenty feet away a man of short stature with shoulder length brown hair. He looked as though he were talking to himself, but Eliot couldn’t make assumptions. Nowadays you could put in an ear piece and talk non-stop without appearing so. The man kept flailing his arms to his sides, almost as if he was irritated with the air.
“You’ve been planning this for weeks now. Just do it.” The stranger then pulled at his hair in distraught, and sat down in defeat.
Eliot let out a small laugh at the whole situation. But then felt guilty for his insensitivity. He hadn’t the slightest clue what the stranger’s situation was. Putting the man out of his head, Eliot attempted to return to his thoughts. He would not let some stranger ruin his morning. Ignore him, ignore him, igno-.
“Okay you’re gonna do it. You’ve just got to. There’s nothing here for me to love. Nothing. So what’s the point? No point at all.” Again, the man’s words returned. This time they meant more than just a stranger talking nonsense.
“Hey man, you okay?” Eliot called to the stranger. The question caused the man to turn towards him in a striking fashion. Wide eyed with confusion, yet stern with a seriousness Eliot hadn’t guessed the man could possess.
“Oh my. I didn't see you there. You spying on me or something? I don’t appreciate you eavesdropping. This is very private stuff.”
“Not at all. I’m actually trying to keep to myself. You’re speaking pretty loud, so I couldn’t help but overhear. You can keep talking to yourself, but I’ll be here.” After saying that last sentence, the man’s face changed. It went from angry displeasure, to a softer look. His eyes eased up their tension, while his cheeks fell into a more relaxed state.
“You’ll be there?” The man seemed to ponder over something for a second. “I don’t want to rub you the wrong way by prying and stuff, but could I ask you a question?”
“Um… Sure. What’s up?”
“Ok. This may be too personal. But I can’t seem to find any other way to phrase it. Do you have someone who completes you? Like is there someone in your life you can’t live without? And I mean absolutely can’t live without.”
“Let’s go daddy. We have to make sure and make the next showing, or we won’t get to see it at all!”. She tugged at his arm with a force that seemed otherworldly for an eight-year-old.
“We are going to make it Emily. You see that right in front of us?” Eliot pointed to a building standing not more than a hundred feet away. “That’s where the movie is playing. There are still twenty minutes until it starts. Don’t you worry.” He rubbed her hand to give a sort of reassurance only a father could provide.
“Okay, if you say so.” She skipped along the pavement; free from worry.
Once they reached the ticket booth, Eliot pulled out a couple of ten dollar bills and purchased two tickets for Cinderella. Tickets that could easily rip at a slight tug, but tickets that held meaning. They represented the rite of passage into a world his daughter could only imagine. A world where her dreams danced in front of her, while reality took a back seat.
Eliot handed over the sacred responsibility of picking seats to his daughter. He knew for an occasion this important, she would make the right decision.
“You excited honey?”
“Hmm not really.” She shrugged and turned towards her father, who gaped at her with disbelief. She let out a giggle. “Of course I am excited! What kind of question is that dad? I am sure glad we made it on time. I don’t think I could’ve waited till next weekend to see it.”
Eliot smiled a warm grin at her, while the movie was beginning to start.
During the movie, Eliot would occasionally glance towards Emily and notice her beaming with a joy second only to his own. Without knowing it, she transferred her own happiness to the heart of Eliot. It did him good to see his daughter happy, and vice versa.
After the movie ended, she couldn’t keep from talking.
“Dad I know I liked the movie. But how’d you like it?”
“Oh it was great honey. Best movie I’ve seen this year.”
“Ha ha, you’re so funny.” She smiled once again at his bad joke. It was only January 3rd, so that was the only movie he had seen.
While they were leaving the theater, it began to rain so hard it hurt to be beneath it. Emily started to sprint ahead towards the car, trying to avoid the rain, but failing in her efforts. Eliot started jogging as well, and ignited the engine once he got in.
“Oh man I can’t wait to tell mom about the movie once we get home. She has to see it with us next time. Whenever she’s not sick. Oh man, oh man, she’ll love it!”
It grew more difficult to see through the rain covered windshield. It fell in slants, striking the glass at high impact. It was summertime in Florida, so he knew it wasn’t hail, but it sure sounded like it.
“Yea, mom will be happy to see it with us. She’ll probably like it more than you.”
They say in driving school to keep your attention on the road, and especially during rain. Eliot forgot this apparent insignificant rule in the laughter of his daughter. He turned back to see his daughter’s reaction to his comment. Her giggles were just too cute to not see them in action. Without realizing it, the wheel started to make a slight veer to the left and the car did as well. Into oncoming traffic his car went, which spelled certain tragedy.
Beautiful mornings weren’t something Eliot had trouble experiencing. Having nothing to do with the weather, a beautiful morning was of his own sentiment. Rain coupled with cloudy skies could be the backdrop to his awakening, yet Eliot would find pleasure in the darkness. Mornings lacking a readiness to jump out of bed weren’t beautiful. They cloaked a happy go lucky spirit and dampened his will to start the day. On this particular morning, warm sunshine blanketed the room; it first made its way along the white tiled floor, then climbed along the bed sheets, and met a sleepy-eyed Eliot. In a physical sense, the morning was beautiful, but Eliot knew it wasn’t.
His right arm felt numb, but his legs could move just fine. He rose from the bed and walked to the room next to his. Its white walls were absent of decorations; nothing could liven up the feeling the room secreted. Despair mixed in with guilt fumed from the monitors, while regret penetrated the windows in the form of sunlight. Nothing could liven up the room, nothing.
She lay in the bed, motionless with unkempt hair and an unbecoming pallor that seemed to blend in with the sheets. His heart was beating, but hers was not. Not a single beat to revive that giggle or those memories of Cinderella. Not a single beat to bring a smile to his face or warmth to his heart. Not a single beat.
Eliot dropped to her side and reached for her hand. No reassurance was provided by his hand; it wasn’t received, so that made it inadequate. That first tear of his broke the metaphorical dam that had been withholding the torrent. The despair wouldn’t stop leaking out of him, and he couldn’t find a reason to stop it.
Eliot gaped at the man’s question. He was right about it being personal, almost too personal. But he knew the man was going through a difficult stretch, and Eliot definitely knew what that felt like.
“Yes. I had someone. My daughter who perished in a car accident. She would liven up any room she was in. Except that hospital room. Sorry, I am saying too much.”
“Oh, I am truly sorry for asking, I can tell it pains you to answer.”
“Don’t be sorry man. It’s been years since she passed. I would lie to you if I were saying I am better. I never will be, but I’ve learned to live with that. I apologize in advance if I am being too up front, but I believe in some strange way, fate put me here on this jetty with you.”
The man’s face formed a soft, but apparent blush. As the weight of the situation grew, the stranger sat down, and realized he had found a fellow sufferer.
“Yes, I am now embarrassed. You have seen right through me, and I have been trying to hide for so many years. I too lost someone dear to me. She was my heart and soul. Someone who brought a purpose to an otherwise purposeless life. Then she was taken from me out of thin air. I don’t want to talk too much about her, it will only sadden me further.”
“I understand. My name is Eliot by the way.” They shook hands and the stranger said his was Ricky. “Over the past eleven years I have lived a tough life. Nothing shines like it used to. Nothing tastes as well as it used to. But I am content. I smile when appropriate and even sometimes when I just feel like it. It hasn’t been an easy road, but let me tell you, time does heal. I don’t feel the extreme guilt I once used to. And that was the biggest burden lifted off me.”
They talked for hours about their pasts, not knowing if they would ever meet again on that jetty. But hoping for a future encounter.
“Well, Eliot I can’t thank you enough for what you have done to me on this day on the jetty. You have brought light to the darkest parts of me. I can say with complete sincerity you have saved my life. And that is something I cannot repay.”
“Yes, well I am glad we met. Don’t go thinking those thoughts that brought you here today. Think about the good times you had with her, and nothing more.” They shook hands, and went their separate paths.
Two boats lost at sea may have the ability to find their way. But not on their own. They must have the assistance of the other boat, to guide them through whatever waters they deem rough. Eliot and Ricky were those two boats lost that day, but they found their way due to the other’s assistance. Eliot returned home that Saturday from the jetty ready to seek the enchantment of his once precious ocean.
Where am I going? Eliot thought to himself. Somewhere important.