Beneath the overcast sky the ocean looked like an endless pool of liquid silver. I'd never seen it so still, so peaceful. Apart from the occasional ripple of an errant wave and the merest hint of spray as the water lapped the rocky shore, it appeared smooth, tranquil, inviting.
In the distance I could just make out the lights of a boat; doubtless one of the many cargo vessels that crossed to Holland and Denmark from the port a few miles north. For a moment I found myself wondering how many men, or indeed women, there were aboard the ship, how many were staring back at me, marvelling as I was at the intoxicating view.
I considered staying where I was, just sitting in my car, gazing out, taking in the scenery, but the lure of the ocean was too much. It seemed to be calling to me, pleading with me to come closer, promising me the inner peace I so desperately craved. I sat for a moment, knowing that I would succumb to temptation, but embracing those few brief seconds when I could tell myself that I was in control, that I was not ruled by my impulses.
I lasted almost ten seconds before I surrendered.
I opened my car door and was instantly wrapped in the accursed embrace of the bitter winter wind, its icy fingers caressing my flesh even through three layers of clothing. I hesitated, my body pleading with me to close the door and remain within the warm confines of my car, but then I smelt it – the fresh, salty odour I'd come to cherish.
I don't know why the ocean air had such an effect on me. I hadn't been born or raised by the sea, and my memories of seaside holidays were mundane, if not unpleasant, but still the scent of the ocean seemed to reassure me, make me feel safe.
I stepped out of the car, pulling my coat tight around my body as I pushed the door shut behind me. The wind wasn't particularly strong, barely enough to ruffle my hair, but it had teeth – cold savage fangs that sank deep into my skin. Once again I considered returning to my car, but even as I pondered the notion my feet began carrying me across the grassy verge and down towards the water's edge.
When I reached the rocks I hesitated, touching them tentatively with my foot to make sure they weren't too slippery. Satisfied I could walk on them without falling, I made my way across them slowly, carefully, determined to reach the water's edge just a hundred yards away.
Given the weather, a sandy beach would have been a more sensible venue to visit the sea. There were plenty of sandy beaches near me, many nearer my home, but none of them seemed to hold the same charm as my rocky sanctuary. Plus the sandy beaches were far more popular, frequented all year round by people of all ages.
My little sanctuary rarely received much attention. In the summer I would see the occasional dog-walker, but in winter it was pretty much abandoned; lonely like me. I could understand why. Though I was very much enamoured with the spot, it was hardly the sort of place you'd expect to find on a postcard.
The rocks were jagged and sharp, broken with little pools scattered amongst them, forcing you to take an indirect and often hazardous path to the ocean. And when you got there rather than finding soft sand beneath the surf, there were merely more rocks ready to cut into your feet if you were brave enough to try wading in the water.
Still, it seemed like paradise to me – perhaps in part because it was so neglected, so solitary. It was the place I went to when I didn't want to be around people, when I wanted to be alone with my thoughts, when I needed to escape the world.
And I so desperately needed to escape.
As I reached the water's edge I crouched down, reaching out and touching it with my hand. Though the water was probably colder than the bitter wind, I sank my fingers deep beneath the surface. I smiled, closing my eyes, breathing deeply. It was like holding hands with an old friend, taking comfort from their touch, from their presence.
With my eyes closed I could hear it, the ocean's song, whispering to me, offering me gentle words of comfort, words that soothed the tempest within my soul. As the water lapped at my wrist, rising and sinking with the timid waves, I felt that yearning, a desire that seemed to burn hot within me whenever I was beside the water, whenever I felt its calming embrace.
I pictured myself standing and stripping off my clothes, casting off the suffocating suit I was forced to wear every day of the week just so I could go to work, to do a job I despised with every fibre of my being. I saw myself standing naked on the rocks, raising my arms in celebration of my new found liberation, a broad smile plastered across my face.
I imagined myself diving into the frigid water, and for a moment I could almost feel it against my bare flesh. There was a moment of pain, savage, brutal agony as the water claimed me, as its icy touch seeped through my flesh and gripped my bones, but then it subsided and I felt...bliss. I didn't know exactly what bliss would feel like, but I knew that's what I would feel. Pure, unbridled happiness.
I would swim for a while, just to get away from the shore, far enough that anyone passing by would not be able to see me, would not be tempted to pull me out or call for help, and then I would simply float, drift, allow the tide to take me wherever it wanted. I would lie back, relax, close my eyes, and trust the ocean to take care of me, allow it to rock me to sleep, confident that it would protect me from the dreams the so often plagued my nights.
And when it was ready the ocean would take me, pull me down beneath the surface, make me part of its immortal song for all eternity.
I smiled, withdrawing my hand from the water and standing. For a second I felt my hands moving towards my tie, ready to pull it loose, cast it aside, but it wasn't yet time. With every visit to my rocky sanctuary the ocean's song became more seductive, but it had not yet reached the point where its will was strong enough to supplant my own.
Soon though, I told myself as I made my way back towards my car.
For Hattie - a valued and trusted friend, and ocean lover
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