He was hoping he'd find her. It was a long shot. She never said anything about staying, only that she would be passing through. But he was hoping for some kind of impossible miracle
Maybe she wasn't able to make it out. Maybe she left and returned. He didn't know. It was the last lead he had
Seagulls circled overhead, in case he was one of those who came with bread
. He wasn't.
He merely plodded along the shore, not paying as much attention as might be expected if he were truly looking for someone. In the back of his mind, he already knew
he would fail, but he was there anyway. Hoping against hope? He didn't know.
The morning was cool. Weeds waved in the wind, yellow and dry among the sand. It wasn't a beach town
. There was nobody else on the beach. It was a port town. Ships of all kinds came and went, bound for various destinations and purposes. She had come here for one of them.
He imagined her on one, taking her away from this land, from his life
. No, it's my own fault, he thought. I was the one who left. I was the one who thought other things were more important.
How many years had it been? Five? Ten? He didn't want to think about it. It was too late now. Who wouldn't move on
after all that time? Why was he even there?
He was disgusted with himself. Pointless wandering. That's all he was doing.
The town wasn't too large. Not so flooded with people that everyone was a stranger
to everyone else. But it was still too many to find one person among them, even if she was still there.
Why am I still living in the past? Why can't I just live the life I have now? Why do I have to go searching for things long gone
?He knew why
. It was in his pocket. Even as he was interrogating himself, his hand went into his pocket to check that it was still there, to feel its comforting smoothness between his fingers. His one last real link to her life.
How many times have I been tempted to use it? So many years when I didn't give it a second thought, when it was just another decoration on my wall. Those were good years. Where have they gone? Why is she haunting me again?
It wouldn't be the same. It was too long. What did he hope to gain. That she would see him, and all those years of absence would melt away
? No, that was impossible.
He had wandered away from the beach, walked by the townspeople out for the day. A plate of the local fish. A pint. Both were tasteless
. He didn't care. They were only tasteless because he wasn't trying to taste them. His mind was lost in the past. The hopeless hope he still tried to hold in front of himself. There was no rational way the could accomplish anything he set out to do that day, but he didn't want to be rational.
He wanted to cling to impossible things.
No, it wasn't totally impossible. He still had it in his pocket. It would have been so easy to use it, but he still couldn't bring himself to. He had no plan. What would he say to her? Nothing. There was nothing to say.
It was his own fault for being gone so long.
He paid for his meal and left. Angry. Frustrated. Not at anything in particular. Maybe at himself. His own inaction, and pretense of action
that couldn't possibly accomplish anything. He was just wasting his own time.
He took it out of his pocket. It flapped in the wind. If he just opened his fingers a little, the wind would take it from him
, into the gray. He would be free. He would be free from this curse. It would be gone from his life. There would be no real way to find her ever again.
But he couldn't let it go. It brought him only suffering but it still represented hope. He stuffed it back in his pocket and looked around. The town was still the town. There was nothing special about it. Except that this was the last place she told him she would be
That's what made this place special. Any other town would have been faceless. Still, there was no point to be there. There was no point waiting for someone who wasn't going to show
. He should have been heading back to the Tower, but he didn't want to be there anymore.
He wanted to be here, among all the faces he didn't recognize
, hoping to find the one that he did. There was no place to go though. He knew he'd be back at the Tower again. He knew he'd end up hanging it on the wall again. Like he had done all those years ago.
But at that moment he didn't want to leave. He wanted to stare into the crowds and pick out someone that couldn't possibly be
there. To return would mean defeat, even though he knew he was already defeated.