Home by the Sea
Moving had always been on her mind. She does not have anyone left in her life. Everyone is dead or gone. What she does have is a caravan by the sea. The caravan where she spent her childhood summers with Mother and Alec. She has not been there in years. She has not been anywhere since it happened, since she let the devil get into her life and destroy it.
The devil is a metaphor, obviously. It is that little voice inside your head that is constantly telling you that you are not worth it, that life is not worth living, that the world is a shit hole and therefore not worth fighting for. Depression is a bitch and she does not remember a time in her life when she has not been depressed. It runs in the family though. Her Mother swallowed a pack of happy pills and a bottle of gin the day after she turned 18. Alec had tried his best to keep her close by, to support her, but he is not her real father anyway, so she shut him out.
Now, she can’t breathe, she spends day after day in her little flat in North London. She works from home, she shops from home, she lives at home. After the death of her Mother, she went into a phase where home was wherever she crashed, it could be in the bed of some random man or woman, or in an alleyway, a park bench, a public toilet. Home meant nothing, she felt she did not belong anywhere. Alec helped her get a flat and a job. There was some money she was entitled to, so she let him deal with everything. Now, she feels she is buried alive and she craves to go away, to leave everything behind and give her demons a rest.
She goes to the caravan by the sea. She knows it is the worst place she could go to, the worst refuge from her troubled mind. The caravan was where her Mother died, the place is haunted by that memory, her Mother lifeless body, the smell of vomit and Alec’s sobs. She goes, anyway. She has nowhere to go. It is winter and extremely cold, the worst time of the year. The caravan park is empty and looks abandoned. You can see and hear the sea from where her caravan is positioned. She brings nothing with her.
Inside, she can smell death. Her Mother’s shawl is still on the couch. Dirty mugs and mouldy biscuits populate the tiny kitchen counter. She cannot remember the last time she has been so close to the sea. She idealised many times how she would like to die. Never how she would like to live. Drowning was always her first option. There is something very romantic in death by drowning, almost erotic. Water filling the lungs until you can no longer breathe. It is so easy to let yourself go. So peaceful.
She might have fallen asleep because it was pitch black outside and freezing. She made herself a cup of tea, she could hear the sea crashing on the shore. She could hear something else, too. A tiny cry. Small but urgent. A little sound that could have been mistaken by a squeak of a mouse if it was not so constant and desperate. She opened the caravan’s door. She looked outside and the sea was murdering the sandy beach. She could not see anyone or anything. She followed the path that leads to the beach. Her Mother’s shawl covering her shoulders. The wind howling and pushing her forward, guiding her to the wild sea. She thought that she could just enter the water, let the waves take her away, let herself go, put an end to her miserable life. She does not know what made her stop, what made her turn back and return to her caravan, to her demons, to her unhappiness.
She remembered once in that same old beach, her Mother sunbathing and Alec reading some of his Russian classics, she went for a walk. How old was she? Five, six years old? Not older than that, certainly. She walked for what seemed an eternity and lost track of time and could not find her way back to Mother and Alec. She started to cry in that deserted beach. She called for Mother. She called for Alec and no one came for her. She remembered the old man who picked her up and found them in the same spot, totally unaware of what had just happened. She could not have been older than five.
She drinks the tea, black, no sugar or milk. There are some forgotten cans of tomato soup that she heats in the microwave and eats gratefully. She would go shopping first thing in the morning and then clean the caravan. Tonight, there is nothing she can do. She will try to sleep. She hears the sound again, the little squeaky sound. There is an urgency in that sound that she cannot ignore. She follows the sound to the tiny toilet. She turns on the light and sees what seems to be a little nest full of tiny baby mice. Birth had taken place in that caravan, in the midst of all the darkness and the overwhelming smell of death, life has won. There is a sense of hope, of undeniable certainty that maybe, just maybe, she can overcome the permanent sadness she has been living in. She picks the little nest of mice and carefully takes them outside, giving them back to nature.
She sleeps a dreamless night; the bed still has her Mother’s scent. She finds her make-up bag in the morning, her floral perfume and an old woollen green dress that she often wore on her winter holidays by the sea. She washes her self in the tiny bath, the water is freezing cold but it has a soothing effect on her. There is still some soap that she uses to scrub her old life away. She puts on her Mother’s dress and instantly feels her presence, her beautiful grey eyes staring back at her, her pale face covered with talc. She can almost hear her humming ancient lullabies. She misses her so much that it is almost unbearable.
A knock at the door. She is not ready to have visitors. She does not want to see anyone. She does not want to talk to anyone. She wants to be left alone. The knock becomes persistent and then the voice she did not want to hear. Alec. She goes to the door, and there he is filling the space with his presence, bringing her fresh baked croissants, orange juice and coffee. He looks almost terrified like if he had seen a ghost. There is something very wrong in this apparently innocent scene. It is almost a deja-vu. He hugs her and talks to her as if she was a very small child or an extremely elderly patient.
Then, she remembers. The morning of her eighteenth birthday. Alec’s pancakes drowned with maple syrup; hot chocolate covered with cream. An old edition of Marquez’ Hundred Years of Solitude and a purple jumper knitted by Mother. Far too big for her small body but that became her most precious possession since that day. Mother was happy, said she would go to town to buy some ingredients for the birthday cake. Said she would not take the car; a long walk would do her good. Her mind racing. It would take Mother three or maybe four hours for her to come back. Alec kissing Mother goodbye. Mother walking the path way from the beach and straight into town. She could feel Alec’s hands under his shirt, his fingers inside her, her back against the kitchen’s counter and his tongue exploring every corner of her mouth. She could feel his sex penetrating her from behind driving her crazy with pleasure. Then, her Mother’s face. Looking for her purse, avoiding their eyes, their excuses, their pleading. Then, she was gone. This time by car. Chocolate cake never tasted the same. Nothing was ever the same. Mother’s lifeless body. A cocktail of gin and anti-depressives. She remembers well.
Alec, her Mother’s partner of so many years, also remembers. They look at each other and there is nothing that can undo their damaged lives. They eat in silence and go for a walk on the beach. It is late when they return to the caravan by the sea. They know they cannot see each other again. He seems to have aged since the morning and looks tired.
When he finally leaves her, she starts cleaning the caravan. It’s a start.
About the author
Primary School Teacher and Drama Practioner, Ana Sofia Brito lives with her family in London, UK. She loves writing, cooking and travelling. The Adventures of Clarisse in the Birds Valley is her first novella.