A lonely man reflects on his lost love affair as he walks along a deserted beach.
It was cold and windy when he stepped out of the car that morning and made his way down to the shore. His face caught the full brunt of the sea wind; his hair flew wildly about. He trudged alone the wet sand out of reach of the foaming incoming tide, his hands deep in the pockets of the anorak. The long stretch of strand was deserted which pleased him. He had not come down here to enjoy the view. No. He was here to collect his thoughts, and to think of her. It was along this beach where he told her he had never met anyone like her; that he was hopelessly in love. She was more cautious about her feelings towards him. However she allowed him into her heart. Before too long they became lovers. Both knew the repercussions they faced. She reminded him on many occasions where it would all lead. He told her he didn't give a damn, but of course he did. It weighed heavily on his mind. But he would not give her up--could not. She asked if he regretted ever meeting her. He thought about that, and how they met. He had been cruising the neighbourhood that afternoon in the patrol car when he came upon a confrontation on the kerb. An old Morris sedan had run into the backside of a Ford Customline. Two young bucks were screaming abuse at a dark-haired Asian woman. He parked and crossed the street. The young men on seeing him cried out: "Look what this Chinese bitch has gone and done!"
She turned to face him. That was when he noticed how lovely she looked, and not shown any fear or anger, but calm, resolute, unlike these two hot heads. He told them that as far as he could make out they had driven their Morris into the back end of the Customline. This only made them more mad.
"You gunna take the side of a Chink?" one of them yelled. "I bet she doesn't even 'ave a license to drive the fucken thing. Bet she shouldn't even be in the country."
He checked all licenses and found them to be in order. Then he checked the damage to both vehicles: a broken headlight and some fender damage.
"I suggest you take this up with your insurance companies. You got insurance?" he asked the young men.
They didn't answer.
"No insurance, eh? Too bad."
He made them hand over their details to her. They swore and called her names. He reminded them that they were one step away from being hauled off to the cop shop if they didn't shut it. They left soon after roaring off in a cloud of smoke. He told her he would follow her just in case the two males were still around. She thanked him. Then she told him she wasn't Chinese, but Japanese. He asked if she was here on holiday, and was surprised to hear she worked for the Japanese Consulate as an interpreter.
"I've never met a Japanese woman before," he told her. "I suppose there's not many of your kind here in Sydney, is there?"
He realised his words could be misconstrued, and he made a feeble attempt to address it. She stopped him and smiled. Her look, her voice, her smile, it captivated him.
"What is your name?" she asked.
"Jack. Jack Curry. I'm stationed at Bondi Junction if you ever..." He shrugged his shoulders. "What's your name? Hang on I already know that. Ryoko, isn't it?"
She laughed. "Yes! And you pronounced it correctly too."
He laughed with her. She was even more prettier when she laughed.
"Well I better follow you just in case those two are hanging about. Do you live around here?"
He didn't want to leave, and she stood there smiling as if she didn't want him too.
He followed her all the way to her place of residence: a six storey apartment building. He watched as she climbed the steps to the entrance. She turned round and waved. He beeped and watched as she entered. Japanese. He would never have thought that. And he would keep the incident to himself for he knew only too well how his work colleagues felt about the Japanese. The war in the Pacific had ended ten years ago, but the scars of the conflict were still fresh. Nothing had been forgotten; nothing forgiven.
All that week he would pass by her residence in the faint hope he might see her. He never did. And then one day out of the blue the desk sergeant told him that a large box of chocolates had been dropped off in his name by a very pretty Asian girl. After that he saw her almost every day. Sometimes he would stay overnight at her place. Finally he told his parents that he was dating a Japanese girl. The fallout was horrendous. His father refused to speak to him; his cousins kept their distance. His family had lost two uncles to the Japanese, one as a p.o.w., the other in the jungles of New Guinea. He understood their hatred, and at the same time hated them for their bigotry. He explained all of this to her. She told him it wasn't any different in her family. Her father lost his life in Burma, and all his brothers at various stages of the war. She told him every family in Japan had lost a loved one. Many times he thought about breaking up with her, but every time he saw her, held her, made love to her, he knew he couldn't. And when he wasn't with her the thought of walking away and never seeing her again crept back. It tore at him like nothing he'd ever experienced before, and she knew it.
"This will end one day...you know that, don't you?" Those were her words to him only days before she vanished. And yet he didn't see it coming.
All of this played in his mind as he walked the empty shore that blustery morning, but most of all was the part that hurt the most: when he went to her apartment that day to find it deserted. He got no help from the Japanese Consulate. They told him she had returned to Japan, and nothing more than that. He refused to leave unless they told him where she was. Security was called and he was escorted off the premises. With nothing but her name he had virtually no way of finding her. He searched her apartment for any lead, a scrap of paper, a name. Nothing. A few close friends told him what he didn't want to hear. But of course he dismissed their comments; refused to believe that she had planned all of this.
For months he moped in the depths of self pity. His superiors told him to ship up or ship out. Eventually he handed in his resignation. The Chief Constable refused to accept it. For nearly a week now he had not reported for duty. He did not know what to do, and even less did he care. Up ahead by a hundred metres or more, a cry from a flock of seagulls hovering against the wind caught his attention. As he approached he noticed one of them lying dead on the sand. He bent down to touch its white breast. It was soft, even warm, but as to why it should find its last resting place on this lonely beach puzzled him. Above him the gulls' cries grew louder until at last they moved off further along the shore line. He looked down at the body and give thought to the idea that this bird was probably alive and well this morning before he came down here, and now for some inexplicable reason it lay here, would never again fly with its own kind or feel the sea wind against its wings. It made him remember a quote from some school text: I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
For a long while he stared at the dead gull with many thoughts racing through him. He thought of her, her words that this would end one day. He looked at his watch: 9.30. He turned and hurried back to the car. His shift had already started. Perhaps he might still have a job after all.