It’s the time between night and day. My rain resistant coat crinkles and rustles as I walk down the bank. My feet pad softly on the sand until I seat myself on a length of driftwood. The air is laden with mist. In the distance the ocean fades into the grey nothingness of the sky.
I breath in the briny, seaweed scent and sit in the silence. The shrill call of a seagull breaks the air—insistent, plaintive, demanding.
A crow scolds briefly and once again there is silence.
Salty tears brim my eyes. Pain gnaws my soul.
But I am not alone. The sand, the ocean, the mist, the fading daylight. Surround me. Enfold me like a bird covering its young. The rhythmic lap of waves on the shore lull me, like a child in a cradle.
Light lingers with leisure until its final farewell. A chill creeps into my bones.
Suddenly I startle. A dark form, tall, lean, broad at the shoulders, brushes mine. It sits beside me. Close. Too close.
Fear wraps its tentacles around my chest. My breath stops in my chest. I am ready to spring.
The being stares across the water. Still. I hear his deep breathing. I look and see a black hood, the outline of a face in the shadows.
He is breathing the air I breathe.
The silence is very still. He shifts, and his coat rustles.
How does he dare? This brazen boldness.
Unbidden tears trace a path down my face. I blink and squeeze them back but they seep out anyway.
Then beside me there is a stirring and I feel the weight of a large arm circle my shoulders. My breath halts and I hang suspended between fear and hope.
We sit there alone. Alone together.
My fearful thoughts subside. Again I feel the misty rain, millions of pin-droplets on my skin. I am breathing now. I discover I am warm, encircled.
The seagull cries. Next to me a heart beats.
There is still, quiet, approaching calm.
As I allow amazement, new tears begin. The arm tightens.
How does this stranger know of the misty, shadowy, sorrows of my soul? I silence the questions. I am here, now.
Breathe. Steady, slow.
What does he want from me? I move. The arm drops.
He stands, his coat rustling. His hand extends to me. Obediently I place mine in his. He lifts me up. I look, searching, into his face. A glint of light catches his eye. I follow the trace of cheekbone, jaw. He turns. Releases his grip. Nods. Walks away.
My eyes hold him and on the path he begins to jog, easily. He fades from view. I walk up to the lit walk-way in silent wonder.
“I sat down beside a total stranger on the beach. I put my arm around her.”
“That’s what you told me. I don’t believe it.”
“I scarcely believe it myself.”
“What did she do, punch you?”
“No, she just sat there.”
“With your arm around her….”
“It was awkward, at first.”
“I can imagine. Awkward, yes.”
“I just saw her sitting there. She looked so alone, in the fading light of the day, silhoutted against the sky. I felt a voice tell me I should put my arm around her.”
“You felt a voice?”
“Yeah, inside, a compulsion, a leading, you might say.”
“It took a lot of nerve. At first I just sat beside her. She didn’t move. I thought she might bolt.”
“A brave little thing.”
“I think she was frightened.”
“How long did you two sit there?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe half an hour.”
“You with your arm around her.”
“I think she was going through something big. It was as though I felt her pain.”
“I know you doubt me, but it’s true.”
“What did you say to her?”
“Nothing. We didn’t talk.”
“Not at all?”
“Weird. Really weird.”