It’s quiet. There is no sound. No light. Nothing but the darkness. I am asleep... or at least... I think I am. I begin to hear a noise, a faint whistling sound. It grows louder and louder. I open my eyes and I’m on a beach, the waves crashing along the coastline. In and out. In and out. Like taking slow, deep breaths.
The sun begins to rise, bursting upon the horizon. Hues of orange and red paint the sky and quickly transition into the dark blue and violet night. The sun is the color of a dark coral pink. The light, slowly creeping above the still horizon, reveals the ocean's foamy blue and green highlights. A cool, refreshing breeze wafts upon my face. I take a deep breath in and recognize a certain, yet distinct smell. One I look forward to every year. A morning dew scent mixed with light coffee grounds, roses, dirt, and fresh Atlantic sea salt. I can’t help now but feel sad. Longing the memories I had with her.
The walks along the Nags Head coast, baking fresh cookies for our firemen across the street, the stories of her life and the pictures of long-lost childhood memories that could’ve continued, if I hadn’t.... I let out a deep, melancholy-filled sigh. I remain in my spot on the sand, looking back on my life, reflecting on all the memories. Reflecting on my past life choices. A tear rolls down my cheek. How could I have been so selfish? I pitied myself. I am alone. Stuck here on this beach. Forever remaining in the rolling madness of my mind. The waves of dread hit me. Then, he is there.
An old friend. I’ve never seen his face, but he has always been there, lurking in the shadows. His face always covered in a shroud of dark cloth, a robe, extending past his feet, dragging across the sandy floor. He extends a hand to me. His hand tells me his story. Long, slender cigar-like fingers. Cracked, dried, and scarred. They look rough, but I take the hand anyway. Smooth yet bony, so cold and dead, yet so warm and full of life. Not just his life, but the lives of many, the memories he has taken over the years. Walking people to and fro. Listening to their cries, their requests. Always quiet, always listening. He helps me to my feet, and we begin to walk along the shore. The water is refreshing. It comes up to our ankles and recedes back towards the horizon. Each pass of the tide warms my long, wide feet and cools them. The sand between my toes is gritty and exfoliating. I am at peace. I know where I am going.
We pass by the sand dunes--naked, dusty camel humps with bits of long, green hair patched between them. We spot the first signs of life down the beach. A small herd of calico stallions. Brown and white, nibbling on the sweet seagrass. Not a care in the world. The leader of the herd is a large, beautiful stallion, with brown rings around his blue, ever-clear eyes. Three white socks, and a brown sock that extends to his hindquarters. He spots us and lets out a whine to warn the herd of our presence. He begins to gallop behind the dune and the others then follow, galloping in sync with one another. They disappear, their whines heard now only from a distance. We are alone again. Walking on the warm, wet sand.
It wasn’t long till I noticed the form in the distance. It was tall and it blinked in the distance. As we got closer, everything became brighter, like light was drowning out the surroundings, all except for the figure. We walked closer and closer to the figure. It became brighter and brighter. The figure finally came into my sights. It wasn’t a figure, but a structure. A lighthouse. I recognize it as the lighthouse from my childhood long ago. The structure still stands.
It has black and white stripes with a glass cookie jar top. A beacon of my happiness. Of my memories. It still illuminates the sky, even though its surroundings are deemed too bright to be seen from a far distance. As I stand there with my memories of my childhood again crashing onto me like the sea waves before the storm, the breeze began to blow. Then, her scent trails along in the wind again. I forgot, my old friend is with me, holding my hand. I turn to him, his cloaked hood still remains covering his face as the wind begins to pick up. I see a shine around his eyes. Glasses. He looks even more familiar now than before. A face I haven’t seen for fourteen years. Only this face is young. Still with a hardened expression and a faint smile, he walks me to the heart of my memories. He walks me through the valley. He was there for me forever and always.
“It’s not your time yet.”
I hear his voice, but I don’t see his face move. He smiles at me and begins to fade--it all begins to fade. The light becomes dark again. The whistling sound is back, deafening to my ears. Then a sound. Beep...Beep...Beep...Beep.... I open my eyes. Monitors. I am surrounded by medical equipment--a heart monitor to my side, moving at a slow pace, an oxygen tank with a ventilator tube wrapped around my face, breathing for me. IV fluids drip from a bag into the tube in my arm. The air is dry and sterile.... Her scent is gone. The ocean, the horses, the lighthouse... all gone.... I am alone in this room, being watched by a man outside my hospital room. I lay there, on the verge of tears. I want to go back to that place. I want it to be real. It was just a dream. No... not a dream….
But a memory.