If you walk far enough down my street it leads to the ocean. The houses become further apart and the road widens, transitioning from asphalt to gravel and finally into sand. Sometimes, once everyone in my house is asleep and the streets are empty, I walk. I walk deeper and deeper into the darkness as the last porch lights and street lamps fall away behind me. I walk trusting that soon I will see the glimmer of stars reflecting off the black water.
When I get there I sit. My feet are always sore by this point. My legs are weary and my arms covered in goose bumps from the chill of midnight. I always walk alone.
It is a rule that there is no talking allowed on the beach. I know this because there’s a sign planted in the sand. This is never a problem for me: I only walk for the quiet.
One night, warmer than the rest, I lay by the water crying. I wasn’t sad though; it just felt right for there to be tears. And out of the darkness rose a strange noise — laughter.
It was a boy. He tripped and stumbled in the sand dragging a kite through the air behind him. The kite flew high and proud although there was no wind to support it. In fact the air was still this night and heavy with warmth. The contrast between the grace of the colourful canvas and his clumsy overexcited gait was comical. I almost smiled, but my lips were too weighted down by the heavy air.
As startlingly as the boy had entered my field of vision he disappeared. The sounds of his happiness died in the thickness of the night. I walked home the way I had come.
A different night, I was standing. My weight shifted from foot to foot. I was listening for the laughter and my eyes were scanning the sky for a kite. Again he stumbled into view. I had the sudden thought that he would smell like salt and windy afternoons.
His cheeks were sunburnt and peeling, but his smile was the best I’d ever seen. He grabbed my hand as he passed, jerking me into a staggering run alongside of him. I was hyperaware of the feeling of his cracked and dry palms against my own. We ran a few paces before I tugged him to a stop by planting my feet in the sand. His kite still flitted back and forth in the air above us. It was my turn to tug now.
“Come with me,” I begged with my eyes.
“We’ll be so happy,” I promised with my smile.
“Let’s be together,” I demanded with my fingers squeezing tightly against his.
We turned and ran towards home. We ran until we couldn’t and then we walked, the kite still flying, along sand then gravel then asphalt. We walked until everything was bathed in artificial orange light and our silence was a choice and no longer compliance. We walked until his kite became caught in a tree, then still we walked. We walked until finally we were home.
I sat him in the dim light of the bathroom and cut his hair with dull scissors. I rinsed the salt from his skin with cool water and soap. I sewed the fraying hems of his shirt. He smiled sweetly up at me.
“I love you,” said his stare.
“I love you too,” said mine.
And I never cried again. And he never laughed.