Behind her was the road and in front of her was the sea. She took a step forward to examine it closer. Her brother, she had heard, his body had been found at this beach two months earlier. She wanted to see the place with her own eyes.
She took off her shoes and her hat, dropped them on the sand behind her. She stepped forward until her toes could feel the sand grow cold and wet. She recoiled in shock when a wave swept a foaming wave over her feet. There was a breeze. Her hair was pushed over her face with such force that she lost her balance. She fell, her arms instinctively reaching behind her and feeling the cold sand yield barely to her weight.
A wave washed over her feet again. She shivered, curling her legs up, hugged them close to her. Her arms, her clothes, her legs, everything was covered in sand which stuck to her and pricked at her skin. So this is where he died, she thought. “Like this,” she said.
The news came unexpectedly, of course. Her mother was brought to the hospital after tripping down the porch steps in a daze because of the news. Her father took some time off from work. He would soon be going back to work again. She quit her job at the department store to make this trip. Her brother was going to become a doctor. It was unfair: to him, to her and their parents, how that man who could have one day saved so many lives could not save his own?
The police called it suicide. The private investigator her father hired eventually reached the same conclusion. There was a note that she was afraid to read. Her father summarized what was in it – her mother couldn’t read it, either. There was a death on the operating table while her brother was assisting. There would have been a lawsuit, but the matter was settled out of court, somehow. She didn’t understand what would have caused her brother to die. There must have been something else.
So she made this trip, to see the same scenes that last met his eyes. The sun, glaringly bright, and the warmth that glowed up from under her feet, turning cold as she approached water. He must have noticed this, too. The cold wind, and the waves which swallowed everything in its path, leaving a slug’s smooth trail where it dragged over. He must have seen this, too. And the sky, so blue, cloudless and bright that it hurt to look at, weighing itself on her shoulders until her back ached with strain. He, too, must have felt this. Not a single wrinkle in such a perfect landscape for the eyes to rest on.
–But a stone. There was one near her hand, smooth and perfect to the touch. She picked it up, with some effort pushed herself up to stand. Slowly, she bore the stone through the cold water until it reached her chest. She held the stone in front of her, contemplating its shape. It was round, as large as her palm, heavy. Her arms grew sore. She let it drop.
The sound it made as it entered the sea was gentle and barely audible. The stone fell downward in a straight line, in a delayed motion as if some hand was guiding it still. Then, in the darkness, it slowly disappeared. She closed her eyes and reached down her head to look for it.
The feeling of being surrounded by water caused a sensation almost like panic in her, but she forced herself to remain calm. She forced herself to open her eyes. Her eyes stung. She refused to close them. She let her arms relax and float to the surface, her feet still rooted to the mud beneath. Should she take a breath now, she wondered. How would it feel?
And it was comfortable, resting like that.
Her instincts took hold of her and she found herself gasping for breath above water. She coughed, trying to throw out the water that had become trapped in her throat. Her nose burned. There was that sky again. The seawater dripped from her hair into her eyes. She brushed it away.
Gradually, she pushed her way back to the car, feeling her weight grow heavier with every step. She strained to pick up her hat and shoes where she left them. Water dripped from her face. She wrung at her hair and clothes before giving up and climbing into the car anyways. She felt her clothes stick to the seat. She found her key, turned the ignition, positioned her hands to drive again. That night, she would go home and read that letter her brother wrote. This time, she thought, she would understand every word.