As fast as birds flee the approach of an unknown thing, I was alone again. I had left my family somewhere behind me in the womb of the past, and now I was heartbroken. My latest love had left me, and absent of the anchor of history I had floated like an unmanned ship down the coast, walking down long beaches and climbing over tall rocks to get further down the sea line, though to what end I could not be sure.
I had gone down to the sea at about six o clock the day after the end of the relationship, with the feeling that if I did not keep moving then I would sink and be consumed. I began walking, and after some time I came to a small beach that was impossible to reach apart from via a dangerous climb down a rock face. It was secluded and secret, and it held this lingering spirit that suggested it had been empty for years. There was no reason why anyone should ever have trod there. The sand was smooth and perfect like glass, and on this mauve summer evening it was quite beautiful. I looked around me. Behind I could no longer see the place where I had started from, where my lonely feet had compelled me to explore along the sea. There was no one there waiting for me. The sea and all around it was entirely absent of people, and the great emptiness was a relief perhaps unlike any other. The absence of people causes the absence of time, and to be outside time can be a wonderful thing.
At the head of the beach were piles and piles of rocks, which gently whittled down into sand as it got closer to the water. I considered for a moment what I could do. The dusking sun was casting a pregnant and absolute light on the beach, the kind one sees perhaps only once a year. After a minutes’ pause, I walked to the top of the beach and took an armful of rocks. Then I walked down to a suitable spot on the sand, and, with a selective glance at each stone, I began to lay them down. I was careful not to put two alike stones together. There was a great variety in the shade and demeanour of each one, and I was sure to position them in such a certain way that colours did not crowd together, nor appear too far apart.
With the rocks I had picked up I spelt out the first letter of what I wanted to write, then walked back to collect some more. It felt as if there was an absolute formula to the order I placed them in, although of course it was as arbitrary as the human heart. Often I would lay down several stones, then come back some minutes later, contemplate them, and then switch them around so that the arrangement was more appealing. It was hard to determine precisely what it was that made a certain arrangement of stones appealing. In fact, I quite often would decide that one arrangement was satisfactory, only to look again a few minutes later and decide that it was entirely wrong.
As I worked I imagined what my ex would be thinking if she could see me. She would want to tell herself that I was mad and she was right to leave me, but I knew that she wouldn’t mean it if she did. Undoubtedly some part of her would cry for me like a single raindrop falling from the end of a bluebell. She would find it funny to know what I was thinking.
Eventually, I finished. I stood back a few yards to get the right angle for my work, and glanced at my watch. It had taken me twenty-four minutes. Twenty-four minutes! I thought. Why on earth did I never take more time to do things like this? Twenty-four minutes was not a long time. If I took twenty-four minutes each day to stop time, and think, and say something, then I would be a happier person. Undoubtedly this would be the case.
I stayed for some time after I had finished writing, letting the words I had written with stones on the beach blend with the evening sun like a peaceable portrait. I wondered what it was that had taken me here, and what I would look like if someone else were to look in on this scene now. Without the context of the past, the present is an unfathomable mystery.
Perhaps whole hours passed as I whiled away on that beach. The light in the sky fell into deeper and deeper colours, and my stones became darker and darker. At length, I left, leaving my message quite still on the sand. No one will ever see it, though in a large way I wish they would. Does anyone ever see what you are feeling? I certainly don’t believe that anyone can ever truly know you, because nothing is ever truly known until it is felt. Unless someone becomes me, assumes my feelings, my chemicals, my past, they can never truly know me. I suppose this is why people must express, as I had just done. It was quite a simple message I suppose, and to the unknowing traveller it would be quite contextless, as I suppose it ought to be. There will be no indication of whom it was written by, or whom it was for, or when and why it was created. It is for them to decide upon what it means.
And years from now I’m sure it will still be there, untouched and just as true as the day it was made. The message I had written in stone on the sand said:
I love you.