Not Today — a Christmas Tale

I need milk.

The flat is dark and empty, my appetite escapes me but for some reason I seem to be living on milk.

Pulling my hat and coat on I close the front door behind me and head for the stairs. Outside the air is cool and dry, the tattoo parlour the only business open as customers treat themselves to last minute Christmas ink. I walk straight past the corner shop and pause briefly at the main road as a 700 bus passes, full of revellers heading into town for parties or a festive night out.

Heading over the green I avoid the lights thrown by the restaurant that commands the view across the beach towards the sea. I know that I am not part of the life and merriment that I see through the panoramic windows and have no wish to be an interloper on their joy.

The stones of the beach crunch underfoot with each step until I reach the sand revealed by the low tide. In the darkness the sand looks liquid, I take a step unsure if my foot will be dry or wet when it alights. As it finds land beneath it I take a step and then another, walking out across the expanse unsure where the shoreline lays, water or land, sea or sky, there is no division, all is one blue grey darkness.

As I approach the sea sings a sweet refrain, the waves gently caressing the shore, welcoming me, calling me on. Finally, hundreds of yards across the moist exposed sands I come upon the waves breaking gently as the tide turns and the sea begins its inexorable drive back in towards shore.

“It’s hard isn’t it?”

I feel him beside me, the dark void that has always accompanied me. His seductive, sibilant voice always ready to drain any light or joy from my soul.

“It is, I just feel so alone.”

“I know, that’s why I’m here,” he replies, “that’s why I’ll always be here.”

“I know you will.”

“Out there. Empty and peaceful. Pain and loneliness cease to be. Out there, out there in the waves.”

A tear escapes my eye and rolls slowly down my cheek.

“Imagine the waves just taking you, washing all of the pain away, cleansing, healing.”

I stand there, neither on land nor sea, I detect no difference between one and the other, cut off from the world, just me and him. I close my eyes, the only sound the sea’s siren song calling me forward and, breathing deep the fresh sea air, I empty my head of all thoughts my arms hanging limp at my sides.

“I’ll always be here for you. Whenever you’re alone, whenever the pain of living gets too much, I’ll be here.”

“I know, you always have been, but not today old friend, not today.”

I turn and retracing my steps across the nothingness of sand and sea I walk towards the lights.

I need milk.

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