26/02/2022 I haven’t felt the cold liquid tickling my feet like this in a long time, it feels almost foreign- the saltwater, the darkening of sand when touched by the sea, almost exactly like the way it had left a dark void of nothingness in my life the last time I was here. I had never imagined being able to ever muster up enough courage to drag myself out here again, or out of my bedroom, for that matter- but that’s the one thing about life I loathe yet admire the most at the same time, the uncertainty.
As I stand here amongst it all, attempting the impossible mission of briefly catching my reflection in the agile water, constantly thrashing against me, I am beamed back to the time when I lost it all, exactly three years ago and just like that I’m caught in a whirlpool of emotions.
I still remember his eccentricity. Remember? I painfully yearn for it. His smile, his enthusiasm, his optimism and his ability to roof over anyone and uplift their spirits. Alex. It feels like forever since I last enunciated his name out loud. He was one of a kind- quirky, kind, dripping in humour and levity.
One of the many things Alex and I had in common, that inevitably brought us together was our love for escapades and nature. He would look at me with his cinnamon sweet smile, glistening eyes and I would just know he was up to no good. Nonetheless, I would give in to his whimsy- something I have come to lament now. Every time I would start to second guess myself, he would always back me up with one of his healing “you are so brave! I’m so proud of you!” segments. He was truly a gem- the kind you would struggle to not fall in love with instantly.
26/02/2019, it was Alex’s birthday, and he was turning 25. I knew he was done with adventures for a while now. It was going to be his first day on the job at one of Sydney’s top law firms the coming Monday and he was ecstatic! – his dream job. He would not stop talking about it, he had been preparing for this almost all his life. I remember when he had received his offer letter in the mail, he leapt up from the couch and almost levitated all over our tiny apartment, screeching like a little schoolgirl who had just won a trophy. I was so proud of him, all the late-night study sessions, blood replaced by caffeine running through his veins had finally paid off and I knew he was going to do great! After all, he was always meant for greatness.
We decided to kick off the celebrations with a simple day at the beach. I had packed an esky full of Toohey’s New- Alex’s go-to beer and his favourite ham and cheese toasties. We picked a spot and decided to settle there.
Alex looked at me, not his usual jumpy, cheerful self; he had a far-off look on his face. His grainy, sandpaper hand from all those years of rock climbing and what not rubbing the back of my hand, “so I guess this is when I bid goodbye to my mistress mischief for a while, unfortunately, milady you have my full attention now, watch out!” he said jokingly and winked at me, I elbowed him softly, rolling my eyes.
It was a sunny day for a change, after a series of thunderstorms, “ah! perfect beach weather, isn’t it?”, Alex had exclaimed as soon as we had gotten out of the apartment. The beach was a little less than too crowded, children and dogs running around, while parents tried to escape their monotonous routine by drinking the mundane away. A group of rowdy teenagers having what looked like a massive barbeque party a little further way down, pumping their speakers.
Alex was extra cheerful today- he had found almost everything extraordinary since the morning. He inspected the water for a quick while and declared that the waves were just perfect for surfing. “Meant to be”, he mouthed looking at me, I blew raspberries- he ALWAYS said that.
He grabbed his surfboard, suited up in his wetsuit, looking handsome and fit as ever, the suit hugging his frame and showcasing his abs perfectly. He met my eyes, perplexed as I stared at him, "Ah, so beautiful, yet so unaware of it", I thought. Then, off he went, but not before softly pecking my forehead, our little ritual- “be right back” he said. I decided to dive back into my book and postpone dipping into the water a few minutes longer. For a second there, I felt the urge to run and grab Alex’s hand and pull him back, to convince him to stay and eat lunch and chat about our week, it had been a rough few days at work, but I did not- It still haunts me that I brushed off my gut feeling, simply wrote it off and tucked it away like old worn-out clothes, things would have been so different if I hadn’t.
I had been strangely trepidatious since the morning, but I had chalked it off to me being overwhelmed with work lately.
After about forty-five minutes of Alex being gone, I saw a pool of people gathered around near the shore, along with the coastguard frantically announcing that there had been an accident. A cold chill went down my spine. Within minutes, the paramedics had arrived.
I hurriedly made my way towards the crowd, trying to place Alex, calling for him. “Alex!” I screamed; I couldn’t see him. “Alex!” my heart beating so fast that I could practically hear it at this point. One more time, “Alex! Please!”. I found him. Alex was surrounded by people, lying down on the ground, his beautiful olive skin looking pale, his lips as blue as his eyes, he had a deep wound on his head; no movement at all, not drawing any breaths. Within a second, my mouth felt completely dry, and I had lost my voice. The paramedics had tried CPR repeatedly but in vain. He was gone. I dropped to my knees, warm liquid streaming down my face as I looked at Alex’s lifeless body. He had lost his smile, his eyes weren’t glistening anymore, they were unseeing, staring into the void and his skin cold to the touch. Suddenly, everything around me sounded like white noise, muffled, unimportant.
They said he had hit a big rock and struck his head which had knocked him straight to oblivion while surfing and then he had drowned, unconscious, until someone who had seen him managed to drag him back to the shore, unfortunately, it was too late.
In a heartbeat, I had lost the love of my life. All his aspirations, just gone with him, all his hopes and dreams lost into the abyss. All that he had worked for rendered purposeless.
Since then, I had refused to ever come back here, for the longest time since then nothing had felt right, and life had felt out of kilter.
Today I finally managed to bring myself back here to pay respects to Alex by honoring what he absolutely loved to do, even though I have had to swallow my own trauma and summon all the courage I could find within myself. I guess that is what love makes you do, right? For the longest time after Alex, I had walked and lived forlorn, in penance and melancholy- debilitating myself to feel anything but guilt. Today as I stand here, almost shaking, in the same place Alex took his last breath, I can feel him, his zest for life. I can feel his love – so very strong.
Alex was always the braver one, but I know he would want me to take the risk of living. So today as the water around me envelopes me like his warm embrace whispering, “you are so brave, I’m so proud of you!” I have decided to give him just that.
As the water thrashes against me- I feel comfort and atonement with every bit of its pristine touch and so I settle on taking life as it comes, tiptoeing and occasionally taking audacious leaps of faith. Unsteady at times, yet never stagnant, always making my way towards something, anything, and everything that my soul yearns for.
After three years of guilt, hurt and being divided between holding onto him and letting him go, I managed to let out, “Happy Birthday, Alex. Rest easy” and Just like that, I could walk without weight. I could smile again, feel again.
Life has its quirks; it communicates through specks of dust and smiles through little alleyway cracks. It does get messy sometimes, but it’s just running its course, it’s telling a story. However, it always finds a way, for all of us. Even me.