Summer took all the sea birds.
There is a barely imperceptible hollow lurking within the cliff-face; a silver thread of emptiness beneath the moonlight, carved out and corroded, where the murre birds used to nest. In the day, the seagulls are specks, surely as close as Icarus to the sun, but their wings were never wax and so the skies deign never to plunge any into the endless sea below. Even the cormorants have vanished, seemingly disappeared into the woodwork of the cracks of the very reality itself, but I am still the fool that catches glimpses of a distant shadow in the mass of its former perch even as my heart knows the truth.
The house I live in has never really felt like mine. It is my name on the documents, but it is yours that is engraved into every brick and every mote of dust that permeates the estate. It is not an untruth to say that the memories are a scent I cannot rid myself of. A saturation of light and colour – it is in every creak of the floorboards, the distant crash of the waves dashed against the coronet of rocks over the edge and the distant rumble of thunder that never amounted to anything other than the gentle thrill of awareness in the cold of night.
More of the bluff eased away into the sea yesterday. Even more so today. I imagine it pulled away like ash or snowflakes, plucked deftly from clumps of the soft rock that line the sloped edges. My knees ached, inching closer to the edge, caught in the desire to see with my own eyes the fall, where the land dropped away into the sea-foam waters below. The ground was solid – and yet deceptively so, I knew – as I poked and prodded with the end of the walking stick. My fingers curled around the handle, cool to the touch, and I breathed. The salt-ridden air of the sea lifted deep in my lungs, and I allowed myself to enjoy the breeze as it wound and brushed icy fingers within my tangled mess of hair. Another breath, and it was the warmth of that wind rising up from the sea’s expanse that embraced me like the weight of a warm blanket. I could close my eyes and almost trick myself into believing it was a hug, your arms once again around me and the world outside that cocoon.
But the bluff still erodes.
There is a flash of memory in my mind, and when I open my eyes, all I can do is wrap the edge of the cardigan tighter as the wistful dream bleeds into reality, and I take an involuntary step back. Before me, there are two children on the cliffside. Familiar eyes and sun-bright faces, one laughs and points to something over the horizon and the other shrieks in laughter and lays on his small back. They are speaking in that same distant cacophony of whispers and words I know the clear shape of, but none of it registers at that moment. The steep drop looms, but the girl… the girl is a ghost skipping through the air, past the ends of her earth, mid-air, and a good few metres ahead before she stops unerringly and peers below.
This is the home she remembers.
Every inch is a memory, seemingly bedrock, steps counted from the cobblestone path to the edge and back again – twenty, fifteen, nine, and thirteen as the weeds slithered from between the cracks and crevasses in between and swallowed up the stone itself. Thirty for me, as I walk, stilted and cautious, in the echo of the footsteps of that which came before. And I ache for that little girl.
Because this is the only home that remains.
The children are gone the second the thought crosses my mind. Something clenches in my heart – that split-second of longing swallowed by bittersweet remembrance – and idly, I wonder if I will see them again tomorrow. It should scare me, I think, the fact that the veil between is thinning and it’s getting easier to see what I know I have long since lost around me. The tangibility hurts and heals in unequal measure, but I am unsure of which is which. There is a sort of comfort to be taken in that, I suppose.
The sea still eats the bluff, bit by bit. There is nothing either of us could ever do to stop it – not the village nearby gradually growing silent, the lights of houses blinking out one-by-one like dying fireflies after dusk, the trickling tap water, nor the weakening rock. The sun still rises and sets, the moon an ever-present reflection in the darkness of the waters above and below, sea and sky. The waves are still black in the moonlight, the sand and grit where the tide eases the white of bone in contrast. Time is still in flux, weaving and spinning a tapestry of the past and present, shaping a future none would ever understand. Day turns to night, night to day, and everything is the same and nothing truly is.
I wonder if this is the madness that have driven so many to fall prey to despair. The act of knowing our own inconsequentiality. Only I will ever remember the land that once stood here, the house built and loved and lived. Only I will ever care, as each remnant of this land drips into the sea, mirroring tears and raindrops, in the shelter of the roughest storms. And until that day, only I will remain.
I still dream of the broken hands of time. The tick of every second pulsating with every heartbeat. The memories that I cling onto, broken and ragged photographs, the colours and sights bleeding like watercolour into the abyss. It drowns the crack and trickle of glass that slips from trembling fingers, and buries alive within the seams of echoing winds the remnant of sound. It hides the peeling wallpaper.
Some days I wake up afraid. In others, I am at peace.
That bluff is still eroding.
Perhaps fate will be kind, and I will never awaken to a world that has taken my home from me. Perhaps I too will stretch my wings and join the birds that have left, carried by the wind and feather-light into one where I will rest no longer on sore feet but the heartbeat of eternity. For I am old, and I am weary. And I am so very alone.
The bluff erodes and I pray that, one day, it will take me with it.
Written by: Trishta