Staring at the water, I let my thoughts go. I stop trying to repress the hurt, the anger, all those pesky emotions I’ve been avoiding for the last couple weeks. It’s almost a relief until the pain comes rushing back. Right. Pain and grief are bedfellows.
I try to keep the tears inside, swallow down the swelling in my throat and keep my eyes from leaking. My resolve lasts almost a whole minute before they break through, hot little streaks down my face. My shoulders hunch with that first sob, and I crouch down, letting the tears drop into the sand. The water will wash them away with the tide.
It’s a solid minute of crying, raw emotion marring the beautiful visage before me. I eventually pull myself back together, head pounding, a little steam let off, enough to let me finish my vacation. The piece I wrote, those words I haven’t said yet, those words I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say to him, is clenched in my hand as I stand back up.
I tuck the words back into my pocket and rinsed my face off. The water is salty and stings my raw cheeks, a pain I barely register at this point. I sit on the beach, letting the waves hit my feet as I watch the lights from the boats. The words burn a hole in my pocket, their weight poking heavily at my mind until I take them out. I read the words again, for the hundredth time, for what feels like my whole life.
While I’m reading, a group of college kids stumbles onto the beach. They’re laughing and drunk, enjoying the time like only students can, like I had planned to before everything fell apart. I stand up, stretching a kink from my spine and walking over.
“Hey, can I borrow a light?”
The nearest guy turns, my presence registering slowly.
“Yeah, totally, sorry,” he says, fumbling in his pocket and handing me a cheap plastic lighter.
I turn to the side, blocking the gentle breeze and lighting up the words. The flame takes a moment to catch on the dampened paper, flaring into life in the darkness. It’s a quick flame, eating through my pain in less than ten seconds, leaving me with a small blister and empty heart.
“What did you burn?” the boy asks as I hand back his lighter.
“Memories, I hope. Thanks for the light.”
He nods slowly, turning back to his friends as I walk away down the beach. Life goes on.