I found a sheet of paper floating in the Bay today. Someone had written on it with one of those silvery pens people use to write fancy messages in cards. The words were dancing on the waves, a song in the sunlight –
He makes me feel alive
Gulls swooped over the paper as if attempting to decipher the letters. Even they could feel the joy in the words.
Around the point I saw many more sheets of paper floating, some already so far out in the dark, early morning water I had no hope of reading their contents, but scattered messages washed up on shore here and there –
I caught sight of a man in an expensive-looking suit holding a leather bound book from which he was tearing out the pages, indignantly scattering them in clusters. They fell the way the petals will fall from a rose in full bloom when it is tapped, all of a sudden in an uncontrollable burst so that when you see them fall you want to scoop the falling petals into your hands to hold on to the beauty just for one minute more before there is nothing left.
The torn pages lay still on the water, delicate, still breathing, until desolate, sorrowful they were dragged here and there by the current.
The man caught me looking.
‘I’m not littering,’ he said. ‘It’s my wife’s diary. She has left me for another man. It’s all in here. I can’t stand knowing it exists. True love, she says. The love of her life. He makes me feel alive. We’ve been married for six years and she never said that about me. Not once.’
It became too much for him – the ripping and tearing – and he slumped, sitting on the dew-wet grass. I imagined stains on the fancy suit that would never come out, much like the stains on his heart. He sat for a moment, staring out at the water then hurled the diary in a perfect arc up and out and into the murky blue. It floated, twirled, then sank. The end of something.
I kept the sheet of paper I found. Dried it in the sun. The words, so joyful at first glance, seemed old, worn, disassembled. The paper was harsh to the touch, brittle as weeds in grass, jagged as a broken heart.