Lonely Loving

The cool breeze tugged on strands of my dark hair, still wet from the salty waves. I shivered, tugging my towel closer, digging my toes in the sand just a bit more before they would have to leave their warmth and step onto the cool wood of the boardwalk. The beach was empty. Though the sun had been shining earlier, the clouds had found their way to us as they always did. It was poor weather―I didn’t care. I’ve never cared much for change. I had plans for the beach today and today I would go. Luckily the rain held out for me, though, the wind didn’t care as it assaulted my exposed skin.

The wood creaked beneath my weight but its moaning was only a whisper against the roar of the Portobello sea. My flip flops dangled from one hand, the rest of my belongings in my other hand as I strolled down the boardwalk mindless of the time or what direction I was heading in. I had time to linger for once. I observed the people I passed―small children flying by on scooters and bikes, teenagers arguing over games and the latest fashion trends, the girls who pretended they couldn’t see anyone else. It amazed me, seeing them in their own little worlds. For this moment in time I couldn’t pick out who was a lawyer and who was on unemployment, who was spoiled and who studied hard. The lack of shirts and shoes, the saltiness in the air, and the warmth of the sun as it cleared the clouds every now and then put us all on an even ground during the summer.

Not for the first time did I wish I could stay. The waves crashing reminded me of so many things. There was an uninterrupted peacefulness in the screams of random laughter, the rush for ice cream and pizza, even in the cawing of the wretched seagulls that plagued the beach and its boardwalk.

For once, no one cared to know my story. I was just another passerby sporting bare feet and a bikini. There was pleasure in the anonymity hidden in the summer sun. Where the world often forced my status to be known with faded jeans and neat hair, perfect makeup, and a resume at the ready, the beach did not. It welcomed the ragged lines of my melting mascara, the uneven curls that became unruly with the salt water, the freckles and sweat that couldn’t be hidden with concealer and powder―it welcomed me. I wonder how many countless others the beach had welcomed.

This was not the first time I wandered along the old wooden planks of the Portobello walk. Often it was a sanctuary, even when the cold winds made it unbearable to step foot in the sand, I would still come and revel in the calm. It was a world separate from reality. Each time I came I found that I was not the only one who needed this space. Today was no different. Dropping my flip flops to the ground to slip them on my feet, I stopped and stared at the open sand. That was when I saw her. It was certainly not the first time and I dared not to think that it might be the last. I honestly can’t remember the first time. I must have been small.

She sat on the same bench each time. Legs crossed neatly and clothes that stood out against the casual air of our location. She was always dressed nicely. Her baby blue heels and matching skirt nearly blended the ocean in the distance. Was that the point? Did she want to disappear in the waves, to become the sea? A light jacket protected her shoulders and her silver hair was piled neatly atop her head. She was from a different time―I was so sure that I would have bet on it. I had many questions about her, for her, but there was one thing that was clear to me each time I saw her. Like a ghost trapped in a never ending moment, she seemed out of place yet I couldn’t imagine the bench without her there. At the opposite end of the bench sat a beautiful bouquet. She always had a different bouquet. Lilies and roses, wild strands of baby’s breath and an array of colorful carnations stood taller and taller still with a thin black ribbon tied at their base. I had never seen flowers so beautiful as the ones she had. I always find myself wondering if she picked them herself or bought them.

I’d asked a few locals once or twice about her, about the flowers and her bench, but no one ever answered. It seemed as though the boardwalk had been built around her. No one could seem to remember a time when she hadn’t occupied the cool metal seat for at least a little bit each day. The only agreement that they came to was that each day when she left, she left the bouquet behind, by itself on the opposite end of that bench. I took a step towards her but then I stopped. Today was not the day I would approach her. Each time I saw her I battled with this thought. I wanted to know more but it seemed so wrong to step into her world and question it.

I wondered who the flowers were for or who they might have been meant to be. A Husband, perhaps? Maybe a Son or Daughter? A Friend or a Lover? A Parent or Sibling? Any of the options made my heart ache. Who could live with such pain? I watched her fragile hand reach out, barely brushing the tip of a lily petal as though she was caressing the face of a loved one.

I made peace with my lack of an answer for today. I tried to think, tried to imagine, if maybe she had made peace with her loss―maybe she didn’t. Maybe she sat here with a bouquet full of life because she couldn’t accept the hole of loss that death had left behind. I could feel my thoughts whirling, urging me away from the present, urging my feet to move towards her. Not today, I thought. Tomorrow.

Night fell and the next morning when I woke the first thought I had was to go back. I needed the calm of the ocean to steady my rapid thoughts and heart.

I needed answers.

Each bus I took seemed to take the longest route and make the longest stops. On and off, I kept switching busses trying to make the trip faster. I ran to her bench―I knew exactly where it was. She wasn’t there when I arrived but I knew it was early still. I sat and waited on the bench beside hers. I watched the children and the teenagers and the business men in disguise. I watched the rising sun and the highest point of the afternoon fade away. I watched the sunset and the crabs that appeared from the sand on the beach when the light disappeared.

I watched her bench.

It stayed empty.

Kapri Koflanovich is a Senior Integrated Marketing and Creative Writing Major with a Minor in Spanish. She is a Poetry and Fiction Co-editor for Quiddity and the Public Relations Officer for ASL Club. In her free time, Kapri loves reading, writing, and dancing. She hopes to work for a publishing company after graduation and eventually write her own book. Kapri is so thankful to have worked on Quiddity since her sophomore year and to have been published in her final semester at Arcadia University. She sends best wishes to all future Quiddity staff & writers!