Strange how life works: time after time I find that messages or missives I had originally intended for other people ended up, years later, becoming notes to myself… I’m either very wise or the universe has a very wicked sense of humour…
He was just sitting there, staring at the sea. Nobody quite knew what to make of him, the strange old man. But they considered him harmless. He was there every morning. As regular as clockwork; sitting there sipping his coffee from his flask at dawn, having his sandwiches, always the same – brown bread with little butter and lots of jam, at tea and then leaving at lunch.
He was obviously waiting for something to come from the sea, obviously waiting for something or someone. Nobody wanted to ask him, not because they were afraid of him, but because he seemed to have an ineffable air of sadness; a need to to be alone with his thoughts.
One morning he wasn’t there anymore, though. That surprised everyone, as anything unusual happening invariably seems to. Nor was he the next day. On the third, though he was seen again; but not sitting watching the sea… He was standing on the patch of grass next to the bench that had been his point of vigil for so long. Looking at the people milling about, an occasional smile on his face and the sadness seemingly replaced with a quiet resignation and occasional flashes of optimism.
And to their surprise the regulars, those curious ones who had watched him but were too timid to approach the old man, realised he was not all that old; it was sadness that had drawn the lines on his face, not the years.
Eventually one of them, the one who had thought he knew the man the best, finally broke down and inched closer to the man, failing to note the amusement now shining in his eyes. “Erm…”, he started, “so it’s here? It came? Whatever you were waiting for?”
With a wry grin the no-longer old man’s reply was heard, a reply that really confused some of those around him; having no frame of reference for his thoughts…
“No friend. All that came in the end was realisation. Realising that if this wasn’t a Storybook Love, it was because it never was written into the story. Realising that if I want a Storybook Love, I might have to go read another book. And finally realising that there are actually other books that might be even more worth reading…”
He had been quite happy in the aquarium, for quite a while. That was before, of course. But there was a time he’d been quite happy indeed.
He could remember a time before the aquarium, swimming free. It hadn’t always been fun, not always comfortable, but he could remember the feeling of swimming wherever he had wanted to. But but that was another life; before he had been caught.
He could remember what it had been like when he had first been put into the aquarium; remember how she would come and coo at him, looking so joyous at having him there. He now wasn’t sure but it could have been the novelty of him being there, but, still, he was quite convinced that she’d really been happy to have him in her life, in her aquarium, there in the beginning.
But that had been before: before she’d sometimes forget to clean the tank, occasionally not feed him, not clean the filter. Of course he’d forgiven her that; she’d been so loving in the beginning; surely it was all just an accident…
But then it happened; he saw a brochure for a marine aquarium! But he couldn’t live in one of those! And there was certainly no chance of another aquarium fitting into the room! Maybe, he thought wistfully, she was just looking. Maybe she was just curious…
Then the day came; he heard her say that she was going to release him… At least she wasn’t just going to flush him down the toilet; she claimed to still care for him too much!
Well that was all in the past, he thought, it was all behind him. Right now he is in mid air; he wasn’t back in the water yet but he was out of her hands. He doesn’t know what is waiting for him beneath the calm-looking surface, but he had no choice but to go find out.
Maybe it would be an adventure, maybe happiness awaits, maybe death, he doesn’t know.
But he does know that the next one will have to work a hell of a lot harder to catch him…