I watch the seagull waddle along the shoreline, its yellow beak searching for something to pick up. But there is nothing but broken shells and thin strands of seaweed blowing listlessly across the sand. Dejected, the seagull takes off, flapping its wings hard against the crosswind, and I follow it, watching as it flies further and further away. When I return my gaze, I can see them walking towards me, their body slumped and their head covered by a dark hood.
” How did you know where to find me?” I say when they are within a short distance.
” Your ad said you’d be here,” they don’t look up, instead choosing to focus on the piece of crab shell lying between us. ” Should we go to a cafe instead? How could I possibly write for you on a beach?”
I smile broadly, showing off my yellow teeth which are still in pristine condition after all of these years. Usually people my age are missing something: teeth, hair, sanity. But I’ve retained it all, although I’m not as fast or energetic as I used to be. Time was not generous in that respect.
“Come, sit,” I gesture to a spot on the sand next to me. I sit down myself, groaning as my bones creak and crack, whining that they can’t move this way anymore.
” Here, you’ll need these,” From the backpack that for so many years I have carried with me wherever I went I pull out a stack of postcards. They were the kind found at every airport in every state or in every country; the kind that showed a field of flowers or a windmill or a mountain and a lake, captioned with ” Welcome to Oklahoma!” or ” Aloha from Maui” or something else generic and uninspiring. Then I hand them a pen. They finally look up, although I know they weren’t looking directly at me because I wasn’t looking directly at them.
” So what do you want me to write?” Their voice is gruff and hoarse, but I know they believed it to be lighter. It is strange to hear yourself talking and find how much you don’t sound the way you think you sound.
” Well, you came all this way so why don’t you tell me?”
They scowl and fold back a piece a brown hair that blew freely across their face. I frown as I realize how long their hair is. So that is the time period I am from. I have yet to cut my hair short and keep it that way. That must mean I haven’t changed my name yet either.
” I did not come all this way to play games with you.” There is my impatience. The years will tame you, unless my plan changes everything, which part of my hopes.
” Then why did you come?” I ask, knowing the answer quite well.
But there is silence as I sit and struggle on what to say. The silence is a comfort, an old friend hugging and silently promising to not let go. I let the silence sit with us, the time elapsing slowly.
” Your ad said you were looking for a scribe,” they finally say. ” A scribe not afraid to look them self in the face and discover what has been hidden from them for so long. A scribe that is close to five feet and a hundred pounds soaking wet, with brown hair that turns light in the summer, and stuck inside them-self looking for a way out. Quite frankly, you are awfully specific.”
I laugh, a strong, hearty laugh filled with the joy I long ago once lost. ” Because I needed to be sure I had the right person. Now, would you like to hear my stories or not?”
They nod their head solemnly. ” Yes. But may I ask who are telling these for? Who am I sending them to? Also, you promised a payment. I did not travel through time to answer an ad that gives me nothing.”
The tides in the ocean change and the once gentle waves slap hard against the shore, the water trickling close to our feet. I scoot back, not afraid of getting wet- on the contrary, I relish the stream of water stroking down my back in the same caressing manner as a painter- but because the coldness would bite my toes until I felt nothing. We were going to be here for a while so I need to stay warm for as long as possible. With that said, I pull my coat closer to my chest.
” You have so many questions and I promise you they will be answered, just maybe not the way you expected. And payment will come per postcard. But first, to make sure I know your up to the task, I want you to write me something,” I say.
” What?” The bewilderment truly accentuates my naivete. Or perhaps I had clung tight to a innocence that refused to leave the more I faced adulthood. Eventually it was yanked ruthlessly from me.
” You heard me. Write something.”
They hesitate for a moment, then begin scrawling. My penmanship was never the best and only now is marginally better than it was in my past.
Fly, the postcard read. Each morning the sun shines Brightly into a cave full of Stones that have gone cold And forgotten the green and blue, Pinks and reds which shined Over wings that struggle to fly, fly, fly Each morning the wind blows Rustling the twigs, the leaves, The broken bones of small wings Too afraid to try and fly, fly, fly Again like it used to. But one morning a giant shadow Falls over the cave full of stones That have gone cold And forgotten the green and blue, Pinks and reds that shined Over wings that no longer wished to Fly, fly, fly "Come on little one, don't be afraid" The giants wings beat overhead Proud and magnificent and unafraid to Fly, fly, fly Into a bright blue sky full of clouds so Bouncy, so fluffy That the wings began to stretch And mend the broken bones "Fly, fly, fly, little one With me and you'll be fine For I will not leave you behind" Each morning the sun shines Brightly into a cave full of stones That smile and wave as the wings Fly, fly, fly
I look up and see, its wings stretched long and wide, a seagull soaring over us, chasing after something we cannot see. it squawks a guttural squawk, loud and unpleasant and making me beg for the headphones which I should know by now to carry with me.
” That was a good story. Did you make it up just now?”
They shake their head. If they only removed their hood then the brilliant sun would light up their eyes, showing off the flecks of gold inside a swirling pool of green and brown.
” Yes. But only because I’ve been sitting here long enough to know what I wanted to say.”
” And what was it exactly you wanted to say?”
” Many things. The first being that sometimes the best thinking comes from the places you didn’t expect to be.”
” I’m guessing you didn’t expect to be here,” I grinned; I couldn’t help but be playful. Hanging onto my inner child reminds me how to truly live.
” No,” they said. ” Although I’ve always loved the beach I forgot how much peace it brought me. I haven’t been here in a long time.”
” Sometimes its good to be reminded and visiting a place, whether new or old, can do that. That’s why if you’re going to take pictures, don’t just take pictures for the sake of memory, but for the feeling it brings and the feeling you want to bring back with you. Now what’s the second thing you wanted to say?”
” That it will be okay if there is someone to show you the way.”
I glance at myself proudly. ” Are you ready for me to show you the way?”
They pick up the pen again and grab a new postcard. ” What stories do you have for me?”
Oh, where shall I begin?