The sea teased the coarse sand of the beach with its caress a few metres in front of him. He watched it through distracted eyes, turning every minute or so as if waiting for someone to join him on the moonlit pebbles of the shore. A ferry was passing on its path into the harbour, close enough that he could hear its speakers announcing to the people on the deck that they were to prepare for the end of their journey. The waves became erratic as the large vessel marked its tracks, racing each other to the beach with impatient hostility.

The man glanced behind him again and this time stood clumsily, slipping a little on the stones. He smiled as his eyes followed an invisible person that appeared to be traveling towards him. He reached out a hand in greeting but the way he retracted it slowly whilst turning back to the sea suggested that his advance was rejected. His eyes still followed the unseen soul as it traveled towards the sea, and he began to plead with it for attention. He took a few steps closer to the sea and paused to stare out over the water for a few moments. The boat had passed and the wash was calm once more.

His gaze lowered to the pebbles at his feet as he spoke a soft apology. When he looked up his expression changed. His eyes wide and his mouth ajar he staggered forward three steps, reaching an arm out before him in desperation. He let out a cry of pain as he stepped into the edge of the sea and then dropped to his knees, one arm still extended before him, the other on the watery floor for support. He stared through widened, teary eyes at a point in the water a few metres out; a point too deep for a person to stand.

He was plucked from the water by an older woman in a dressing gown, who held him in her arms and stroked his hair gently for a minute or two as he sobbed heavily into her shoulder. She steered him towards the pavement where an older man stood with an open towel, and together they deposited him once again into the solitary car at the edge of the road. As they stood beside the vehicle the older man took the lady’s hand and squeezed it gently to comfort her as a droplet of water slid down her cheek. She wiped it away hastily, giving her usual wave of thanks to her messenger, who stood in a doorway across the road with a phone in her hand.

They drive away, hearts heavy with sympathy.


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