The Beach (freewrite)
The first time Elijah sensed something odd was when he was about five. The comforting feel of the warm sand against the soles of his feet made him cry with delight. ‘Oh, how I missed that!’ His parents laughed. So did big sister Eliza.
’You’ve never been to the beach before, silly’ she said
‘His cheeks flushed red as they always did when the grown-ups would not take him seriously. Eliza was not technically a grown-up, which made him resent her patronizing attitude even more.
’I did. I remember it very well’, he proclaimed with that honest holy indignation only a child is capable of.
His feet knew they’d been there before, he remembered walking up and down the beach, never too close to the water’s edge, because there were crabs there and he hated those. And the smell of fish, which it turned out came from the restaurant a little further down the road. He hated fish and would not eat it ever, even if it meant no dessert and a long lecture on the kids going to bed on an empty stomach.
His father ruffled his hair and his mother smiled and the conversation turned to finding sunbeds and Elijah’s silly words were swiftly dismissed. But he knew it wasn’t only his imagination. He’d been there before. Maybe not this beach exactly, the one in his mind was broader and it had no sunbeds. Only a small wooden shack with a lock on its door and grimy windows. They’d tried rubbing the dirt off, but it was dark inside and they didn’t see anything. He could not remember who they meant, but he had a feeling he was not alone. And it couldn’t be Eliza, because she she was seven years older, too big to play with him.
Then there were other things. Later, when the beach holiday was already a distant memory for all, except for him. The smell of roasted corn he’d once caught a whiff of while they made their way through the crowded alleys of a fair. He remembered the white teeth gnawing at the slightly salted corn with rapid movements, just like a squirrel, he thought and started to laugh. His mother asked if he wanted some, but Elijah started to cry, because it felt wrong, eating all alone was terribly wrong.
Then the nightmares started, he dreamed he was running very fast until he felt his heart bursting in his chest. He could not say why was he running, whether he was running away or looking for someone. He woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of the wind-chimes Mrs.Davies next door had brought back from a trip to a faraway country where she’d bought all those bright-colored dresses that made her look like an alien when he showed up at the school-gate to pick her little Nelly. He found the wind-chimes comforting, he was home, he was safe.
He didn’t tell anybody about his weird feelings, because he wasn’t a child anymore and they wouldn’t find it funny. They’d look annoyed, like his mother did that day when he told her he’d dreamed about being back at the old place, with the swing hanging from a tree, the swing she used to like so much. But his mother told him they’d never lived in such a place and asked if he was feeling alright. He felt stupid as he realized it couldn’t have been her, his mother had made it her life mission to straighten that long hair of hers until it hung limp around her head, but the woman in the swing had heavy unruly curls that danced in the wind and got into her eyes, obscuring her features.
In time, Elijah learned not to talk about anything they might find weird, but he’d spend many nights awake wondering what it all meant and who was the girl with the curly hair.
The he grew up and he met a girl and forgot about the woman in the swing. The girl’s name was Miriam and she had a cute bob haircut and she loved dogs and she was wonderful. His parents were so proud of his choice and he felt the luckiest man in the world.
They got to the beach on the first day of their honeymoon, holding hands and stopping to kiss along the road. The fine sand felt so familiar and a feeling of warmth filled his heart, like all his life had been a build-up for this blissful moment. The profound joy was so overwhelming he stopped and pulled Miriam near. His heart froze when he looked her in the eye. Who was this stranger holding his hand? Why was she smiling? Why was she drawing near, lips slightly parted as if she was expecting a kiss? Elijah recoiled and let go of her hand and started to run away from that woman who he now knew was not his woman. What sort of madness had him so blinded as to get married to this woman he could not possibly love? Because he loved her, the one with the curly hair that got all tangled and powdered with a fine layer of sand as they made love on the beach.
After that, he had to move to another city. No one spoke to him anyway, not after dumping his wife on the first day of their honeymoon. Elijah was grown-up enough to know he could never explain how his heart belonged to a woman he’d only seen in his dreams, who didn’t even have a name. They all thought he was an asshole and he let them. Somehow it felt better than them thinking he was crazy.
He never married again and he never went to the beach, any beach, again. He did well with his job, he got a dog and he had friends to watch football sometimes. He still had nightmares from time to time and he woke in the middle of the night. He’d stopped wondering what it all meant and he calmed down with a large glass of scotch. Or more.
He did not really believe in the afterlife,but he’d always had this feeling there might be something waiting on the other side. The man with the round face and metal-rimmed glasses was clearly exasperated with him and Elijah knew he’d been here before and it was always the same. He’d failed again.
‘How many times do you need to reincarnate before you understand you have to look for her? You can move to whatever city, you can move to another continent for all I care, but it’s a beach where you’ll find Alicia again.’
Alicia. He remembered now. Their summer of love, he remembered everything now. Especially the last day when he said he was going to meet an old friend at a cafe and promised he’d be back before sunset. He left her reading on the beach and it broke his heart that he could not marry her, he had plans he could not possibly saddle himself with all the responsibilities of a family at so young an age.
The clerk’s voice brought him back with a small cough.
’Please, try and do better next time.’
Story written for @mariannewest's freewrite challenge. Today's prompt was: reincarnate! Check out her blog and join our freewrite community.
Thanks for reading!