I don’t know how long I had been sitting there crying. I lost track of the time a while ago, but I knew it was late because I could see the sun starting to set already. But at this point, I no longer cared how long it had been or who saw me. There weren’t a lot of people on the beach lately anyway, thanks to British Petroleum fucking up the majority of them, but this was one time I was thankful for it. There were fewer people to see some kid sitting in the sand bawling his eyes out.
I had done this every day for the past five days now. Every day I went down to the beach and sat there. I had only one thing to do and no matter how hard I tired, no matter how much I wanted to be done with it, I couldn’t. Five times I had come to this one spot and five times I sat there. And five times I had failed. And every day the pain got worse and worse, because every day it felt like another failure.
I remember that this was always his favorite time to be here. He had made a habit of telling me over and over again. I closed my eyes and began to remember a few years ago during the summer; we had both been surfing for hours. I was ready to call it a day and head home, but he was still hungry for more. I think he would have lived on his board if he could.
“What do you say we paddle out one more time?” He always had a look on his face like a kid who was on his was to Disneyland; no matter how many times he did it, the thrill of the water never left him.
“Seriously, James, you’ve been saying ‘one more time’ for like the past hour and a half.” My legs and arms were
already sore and I knew his had to be too, but I never was very good at saying ‘no’ to him. So he already knew what the answer was. I think we finally stopped right when the last of the sunlight left. We would have continued to surf in the dark if his dad hadn’t put the kibosh on it.
I heard a tugboat horn sound off the coast and was brought up out of the semi-trance I had put myself in. The sun was almost completely down now and the water had been lit up with just the last few remaining rays that gave the water an almost purplish tint. Normally I would have just stared at it thinking to myself how beautiful it looked, but my mind was so far gone at this point that I barely noticed. Grabbing the bright yellow surf board, I stood up and decided that I would chalk this day up as another failed attempt.
I caught the last bus home. It was almost empty, except for some college student and an old lady, who I saw on this bus almost every night. She would often try to talk to me and I had, on occasion, talked with her, but tonight I just didn’t have the will for conversation. I took a seat in the very back, so I could avoid an exchange of words, and just leaned my head against the window. It was a few blocks later when we passed my old school, and seeing it, I couldn’t help but remember when I first met James.
It was in first grade, and my mom had gotten her new job. I remember she was completely ecstatic. She came running into my bedroom screaming, she was so happy. At the time, we lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in Coral City. At the time I had no idea why my mom was happy about a new job. But I was glad just to see her smile. A few months later we had moved out of the old apartment and into the heart of the city so my mom could be closer to work. But this also meant that I would be going to a new school.
I’m not sure why, but somehow, right away, I had caused myself to be labeled as an outcast. The kids would barely even speak to me, but it wasn’t really their fault. I was just as unwilling to speak to them. But then I remember James. He was the only one who came up and starting talking to me, like the first wolf of a pack, stepping forward to sniff the newcomer. I don’t even remember what we started talking about. I think we covered every subject imaginable within a single hour, but I remember that every day after that we were inseparable. If it hadn’t been for him, I would have probably kept my outcast status with me for the rest of my school life. Even to this day I have never been one to approach anyone. That was probably the first time he saved my life.
“Hey isn’t this your stop?” I didn’t realize that I had fallen asleep. I opened my eyes to see the old lady who I had made an attempt to avoid talking to. But right now I was grateful for her. I had fallen asleep on the bus once before and ended up having to walk 20 blocks back to the apartment building.
“Ye…Yeah thanks for waking me.”
“I’m almost sorry I had to, you looked like you were having such a peaceful dream.” She had a very kind smile, the kind that reminded you of everyone’s grandma. It just seemed to invite you in. For some reason, I could just imagine her going home every night and baking a ton of cookies. I mean, that’s what grandmas do, right? “I bet it was about a girl, wasn’t it?”
The question just made me stop in my tracks for a few moments. If only she knew how far off she really was. I turned to see her wrinkled old face and wild gray hair sticking up all over the place, and I figured it was best to just let her continue with her delusion.
“Yeah, something like that.” And without wanting to have to reveal any more than I had to, I quickly made my way to the front of the bus before she had the chance to ask any more questions. I got home, and our apartment was empty, as usual. My mom now spent most nights at her office, having to deal with some new project or trying to hammer out the finishing details of an old one. Either way, I saw less and less of her as time went on and, regrettably, I had given her grief over it more times than I cared to admit. I knew that my mother worked her ass off to try to make a really good life for the both of us, but at times it seemed like I spent more time with baby sitters and latchkey programs than I did with her. And after I turned 12, and it was decided that I was old enough to watch myself, I spent more time alone than ever.
Most days, after I got home from school, I would end up heading over to James’ apartment. He only lived a few blocks over, so it was easy to just walk back and forth. He spared me from more lonely days than he’ll ever know. He came from a fairly big family. Well, big by my standards anyway. He had an older brother and sister who had both moved out, but it seemed like they were always there anyway. And both his parents had stayed together. I always thought that was so cool, considering you never see that anymore. And over the years, I’ve spent so much time with them they all just sort of unofficially adopted me.
Attached to our fridge, I saw a little yellow Post-it note that had been scrawled on with what I recognized right away to be my mother’s handwriting.
I’ll be home around eleven. I’ll eat here, there are leftovers in the fridge, or use the debit card and order a pizza.Love ya sweetie,
Sadly enough, the little yellow Post-it notes had more or less become our main form of communication over the years.
Skipping dinner, I went to my room and crawled into bed. I hadn’t slept in days, and I felt like I could pass out at any moment. I didn’t even bother to undress before falling onto my bed and closing my eyes. I opened them once more to see the two surf boards propped up against the far wall. Seeing them together like that was almost like seeing the two of us standing there next to each other. The thought of which brought on another wave of sadness, and I had no choice but to roll over and do my best to fight back the fresh tears that were forming in the corners of my eyes. I was tired of crying and tired of the sadness.
And for the sixth time, I promised myself that, no matter what, tomorrow I would find it in me to end the sadness… and tomorrow I wouldn’t fail.
To be continued…