EASY TO REMEMBER.
- Women like you make me sick, the young blonde says as she moves quickly away. She disappears into the crowds and I've lost her. There's not much one can do when another's beauty captures one's mind and soaks up each moment with the thinking of them and wanting of them. But in the end all you can do is hope that this particular one will be the right one and won't scamper off like some frightened mouse. In this case, I'd got it wrong. Nonetheless, she was beautiful and is gone. I too was beautiful once, as Judy would admit if she were here and not buried up in some London graveyard with moss and weeds over her small stone. I'll make her a visit tomorrow and talk like the old times, if the weather holds.
* * *
We walked along the beach in our cotton dresses and bare feet. The cold waves rushed over our feet and made us scream with delight. We held hands and ran further along. Then we stood and looked out at the horizon to where the sea seemed to disappear. The beach was deserted, save for an old man and his dog in the far distance.
- Can't believe I'm fourteen tomorrow, Judy said. I'll be the same age as you then, she added. I could feel the warmth of her hand in mine and squeezed it gently. She turned to face me. Her hazel eyes searched mine and after a minute or so she leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. If my Mum or Dad could see us now, Pru, I'd be dead, she said smiling. I took her hand and we moved further into the sea until the water was near our knees and our dresses were getting damp. We ran back to the sand with our free hands holding up our dampened dresses. Then we stood looking up the beach at the approaching man and his dog wondering what he thought and not giving a damned fig what he thought.
The old man passed in silence. His dog sniffed us then moved on as if we weren't worth another sniff. When he was well passed us I turned to Judy and said,- I love sunsets. The sun was sitting on the horizon like a huge orange and a few clouds moved by it cutting it in two. Judy said she loved them too and we stood and watched until the chill bit into us and we moved back along the beach, towards the boarding house where our parents were waiting anxiously no doubt, as the dark gradually crept in after us.
* * *
The cemetery is silent and almost deserted. I wander along paths until I come to where I think her stone is. Its smallness is how I know it. Her name is still visible as I rub away the moss and pull the weeds. JUDY TYSON. PASSED PEACEFULLY. !948-1984. I sit on the warm grass and stare at the stone. - I'm here, Judy, I say. I came on impulse. It takes time to understand her silence. Been rejected again. Blonde this time. Beauty, she was. I look around the cemetery. A few people pass some distance away. The sun is warm above me. Clouds scarce and white. You'd love this weather. I break off and look down at the grass. Tomorrow I'm going back to that beach. You remember that beach? I sense her. She remembers. She remembers.
* * *
Mr and Mrs Tyson and my parents were walking the gardens just off the beach past the pier. Judy and I remained behind with promises not to wander far. - That's them out of the way, Judy said with a sigh. She looked at me with those hazel eyes and smiled. Where shall we go?
- Along by the cliff; there we could be alone, I said. She agreed and we walked along the beach, past the crowds with their children and deckchairs and balls, along the narrow spaces between large rocks until we found the path that led up to the cliffs. There was no one about; we were alone. We walked up slowly until we reach half way up the cliff. There we stood looking out to sea. We stared in silence; each of us occupied by our own thoughts. I felt her hand touch mine; wrapped itself around mine softly. Beautiful, isn't it, I said,
the sea. Judy said it was and that she wanted to go where the sea ended and take me with her. Far from our parents, she stated, far from interference and judgements. Below waves rushed to the shore and above us seagulls moved and made noise that didn't manage to break the spell of the moment. I sensed the closeness of her body and saw out of the corner of my eye her brown hair touched slightly by a mild breeze.
- Shall we walk the shoreline this evening again? Judy asked.
- Yes. Let's see the sunset, I said. I felt her kiss my cheek and a warm glow flowed through me, and I knew I never wanted to be parted from her. We walked up further, getting slower the steeper it became, until we reach the top. We stared out at the sea again. Now we heard voices behind us and knew we were not alone anymore. Our hands parted. We said nothing; just gazed in our own silence.
* * *
The boarding house still stands thirty years after our last visit. It looks smaller and less proud. My heart pounds within me as if I'd seen a ghost walk. I pass by and do not enter. The road is wider now that separates the boarding house from the beach. Cars file past slowly. Crowds of holidaymakers stream past each with their own lives and desires. I cross the road and stand on the edge of the beach; the sands are dirtier and crowded. The noise is disturbing, the smell uninviting. I move between the bodies and walk further along the sands towards the cliffs. The path up the cliff is still there, but slightly overgrown. Few people have ventured along this part and I sense a calm enter me. I sit on a large rock near by and look out to sea. - I'm back, Judy, I say. My voice sounds hollow, empty. Wish you were here, I add, feeling foolish. I sense nothing of her. The waves rush in noisily. Maybe it was a mistake to come back here, I say internally lowering my head and closing my eyes. I hear the seagulls, but feel no hand in mine, or her presence.
* * *
From Judy's room in the boarding house we could see far out to where the sea met the wide horizon. Our parents were out, leaving us reluctantly behind, as they toured a local historical spot. We were by the window together, Judy peering out of her father's black binoculars towards the horizon.
- How long before they're back? I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders - Don't know; quite a time, I hope, she said lowering the binoculars. She offered them to me, but I declined. She put them on the old chair beside the window, and taking my hand led me to her small single bed with its pink bed cover. We sat down and for a few moments said nothing. Then she bounced on the bed and said, - Will you get in bed with me? I frowned and stared at her like a loon.
- What do you mean? I asked. She patted the bed with her right hand.
- I want to hold you and kiss you, she said quietly. I looked at the bed and then at her. I felt unsure of what she wanted of me.
- Can't we do that sitting here? I asked. I felt my body tingle. A slow wave of feeling moved through me.
- Yes, she replied, but I want to hold you naked, flesh-to-flesh. I want to lie beside you and hear your heart beat. She gazed at me and I breathed in deeply sensing her closeness.
- All right, I said. I was nervous and shy. But what if our parents come back and find us? I asked. She laughed and said they'd be ages and besides we could always put the chair under the doorknob to keep them out. The thought of it made me laugh and I relaxed. We undressed slowly putting our clothes on the floor and climbed into the small bed together. There was little space, so we lay close together, our bodies warm against each other. We kissed. The far off sea was soundless. The seagulls were absent from above our heads and only the soft creek of the bed as we moved, betrayed our presence to the far away outside world.
* * *
I wander alone along the beach, holding my shoes, walking barefoot so that the surf can wash over them as the tide rolls in. The crowds have returned to their homes of guesthouses or hotels and, except for the occasional couple, the beach is deserted. I stop and look out to sea. The sunset reminds me of those two weeks in 1962. Only there is no Judy beside me holding my hand. No words to share; no memories to laugh over. The day has been depressing: I have not felt Judy's presence as I had hoped. Even now standing on the beach, I do not sense her presence. The feel the slight wind. I hear only the sea.
- Lovely sunset. I turn to see where the soft voice has come from and there stands a woman in a flowered cotton dress and bare feet.
- Yes, I say. The woman moves beside me and gazes out at the dark green sea.
- I come every year, she says still gazing out at the horizon.
- Lucky you, I reply. I haven't been here since I was a fourteen-year old girl. She turns and smiles. Her eyes are hazel and her look warms me.
- That's a long time to wait to return, she says, softly.
- I came to find something, I say quietly. She nods and turns to face the sea again.
- Did you find what you were looking for? she asks.
- No. I shouldn't have come back, it was a mistake. I look down at the damp sand and push my toes into it. Easy to remember, I whisper, washing my toes in the incoming water.
- Hard to forget, the woman says. We look at each other in silence. We move along, letting the waves wash over our feet and she begins to laugh. I haven't done this since I was young, she says as if she were a child again.
- Neither have I, I say shyly. She tells me she's staying at the boarding house and comes every year. I tell her I have a room at the Pier Hotel and was only staying for a few days. When I ask her about the boarding house, she says she has a room looking down on to the beach. That was Judy's room I tell myself as we stop and look at the sunset once more.
- Will you have dinner with me tonight? The woman asks suddenly. I know it's presumptuous, but please say, yes.
I feel uneasy at first and feel I should decline. Her hazel eyes are searching me in a way that reminds me of Judy.- Yes, all right. Where? I ask. She suggests a restaurant she knows and says where and when to meet her. Then smiling she turns and walks along the beach, her cotton dress moving gently like a sail in a calm wind, until she disappears from sight.
* * *
- It's our last sunset, Judy said. We had stop by the rocks and were peering out at the sun, which sat like a huge orange balloon on the far away sea. I wish it would never end. I hate going back to London after this, she said moodily. She sighed. Her hand squeezed mine. Her flesh against mine. Our naked feet on the sands, wet from our soaking walk.
- I want to come here again with you, I uttered emotionally. She turned and nodded. Her eyes had tears in them that made the hazel colour look darker. Hold me, I said. She did. Held me tightly.
- Remember this sunset. Remember us here. This is our eternity. Her words echoed against my cheek and I felt the dampness of her tears. We kissed. Her lips on mine. Mine on hers, wet, soft.
- Easy to remember, I said. We moved away from each other and stood back. Hard to forget. She looked around to see if we were alone. We were. The beach was totally deserted and the sky was slowly darkening. We wandered back along the beach hand in hand in silence. No more words. No more sunsets. Only the lonely walk back to the boarding house for the last time.
I sit opposite the woman in the restaurant she had suggested. She had been waiting for me outside and when I arrived she seemed so pleased as if I were an old friend she hadn't seen for years. Her hazel eyes search me as we eat, and I feel so relieved that all is so natural and not strained as meetings between strangers usually are. Putting down her cutlery for a few moments, she asks if I would walk with her along the beach before the evening ended. I say, I will and am glad of the opportunity to see the evening sky again.
- Look at that moon, the woman says as we walk on the beach. The air is calm and warm. We stand and look up at the sky and the bright glowing moon. Those stars, they make the universe seem so immense and us so small. Her words echo round us. I want to reach out, take hold of the words, and keep them. Her voice seems familiar, yet I cannot place it.
- One cannot see where the sea ends in the dark, I say. We lower our eyes and stare out to where the sound of the sea rushes towards us. I become aware that her left hand has taken hold of mine and she is squeezing it gently. I let the touch invade me. I sense her flesh on mine and am pleased. T.S. Eliot wrote that the sea has many voices, I say wanting her hand not to release mine.
- And Conrad said that the works of the sea are a mystery. I love the sea. Love the sound and smell of it. Love the feel of it on my flesh, the woman says, her voice close to my cheek as she leans her head next to mine.
- You haven't told me your name, I say suddenly, fearing her departure and not knowing what to call her if...She releases my hand and turns towards me. She whispers in my ear, her words soft like snow. I stare at her and sense my heart pound within me. We say nothing more and start to walk along the beach again. It seems as if we are alone in the universe, just us two. Even the sea has become silent and rushes forward as if in mime to embrace us, to swallow us up into its cold arms.
We enter her room in the boarding house silently. She switches on the light to dispel the darkness and the room seems as it was thirty years ago. Yet some things have changed. The wallpaper is brighter. The pictures are different on the walls. The bed is new with an orange duvet. - I was here thirty years ago, I whisper.
- So was I, the woman says. She walks to the bed and sits down. I feel so strange. I stand staring around the room and then lower my eyes and look at her sitting there so calm, so unperturbed. Come on,Pru, sit here with me, she says softly, tapping the space on the bed beside her. I walk towards her and sit where she suggests.
- Deja vu, I whisper. Is this real? I ask. She lays her head on my shoulder and her voice seems to enter my body.
- Hesse says, there is no reality except the one within us. This reality, Pru. This is our eternity, her voice says. We are in darkness. We undress. We are side by side, flesh to flesh, as if nothing had changed, as if today was always today, ad infinitum.
* * *