When you live by the sea, there are so many things that can seem more beautiful than the evening sunset or a red sunrise. You wake up to the clear light entering through your window while the wind caresses your skin and it usually feels like any other day; maybe that is why I enjoy rainy days.
Like any other summer, there was nothing exciting about that one anymore; families with noisy children, teenagers littering everywhere, and an endless line at the ice-cream shop. I suppose that people coming from cold countries wouldn’t understand but then again, I was hard to understand in the first place. Maybe that’s why I became a hermit, always running away from the meaningless words of ninety-nine percent of the people I had met in my everyday life.
But out of that 99%, I found him that day, ironically, on a summer night. I was walking back home from the supermarket. My shopping bags were barely full, I hated cooking and I still do. After avoiding some of the neighbors along the way, I reached the beach and took the same everyday path that would take me home. I wasn’t used to paying attention to anyone but something about him caught my attention. Maybe it was his pale skin which seemed like a snowflake against the night sky. Or maybe his eyes when they met with mine; deep and dark, so much I could see the stars reflected in them. However, it wasn’t until I heard his voice that I knew I was going to fall inevitably to the depths of his sea. He sounded like the ocean trapped in a seashell; a soft murmur that was able to wash away the monotony of my life.
He was standing on the beach contemplating the horizon but I didn’t pay too much attention to him, he was just one more tourist finding beauty in such futile moments of life. Yes, the sun would go to sleep but it would always rise the next day. Those were my thoughts when I passed him by.
“Are you from around here?”
My body refrained from listening to me and stopped without warning, my stubborn eyes went after him and my mouth opened up pronouncing a very lame “yes.”
“Do you know of a good spot where I could have some quiet time? I came all the way here looking for peace but ironically,” he started explaining while looking around and my ears helplessly listened, “This beach is really crowded.”
From his accent and the obvious almond-like shape of his eyes, I could tell he had probably traveled from really far away. Unwillingly stay there any longer, in what could have broken the World Guinness Records of the most words spoken in a minute, I gave him the directions to a small cliff nearby. I wasn’t sure how good that place could be for whatever inspiration he was looking for but I wanted to get away from there as soon as possible. I walked away as soon as I pronounced the last sentence when he stopped me again.
“I’m sorry to ask you this when we have just met but would you be able to take me there?” he added shyly while passing his fingers through his wavy brown hair.
“Um…ok,” I replied, trying to sound as unfriendly as possible but for some reason, he didn’t get it that way and replied with a bright smile.
We walked together for about 5 minutes, the sound of the waves breaking the silence between us. I looked at him from the corner of my eye and noticed he was carrying a backpack and wondered what was that he needed inspiration for.
“I’m a writer,” he said reading my mind.
“Oh!” I replied, genuinely surprised.
“Or at least that’s what I want to become one day,” he added showing me that stupidly charming smile.
“Are you writing a romantic novel?” I asked, knowing I wouldn't be able to escape from him easily.
“What? No! I’m a sci-fi lover, romance is quite boring, there’s nothing like robots and brainwashing villains!” he replied excited, I couldn’t help but smile shyly.
“You look prettier when you smile,” he added all of a sudden; my cheeks became tomato red.
“Thanks.” My mouth felt dry and my heart was pounding loudly against my chest.
“You could totally be the heroine in my next novel.”
“A heroine?” I laughed skeptically; he didn’t seem to like my reaction and remained quiet.
“Sorry, I just…I’ve never thought I could be the source of inspiration for someone.” Ironically now it was me who wanted to keep talking to him; I wasn’t resisting anymore.
“Well, maybe I see things not even you can see.” His voice was full of conviction, so much I almost believed him.
“We are here,” I interrupted, changing the subject. The wind was blowing strongly making some stripes of my black hair run loose from my braid. He raised one hand and put the hair behind my ear, the touch of his fingers against my cheek made me shiver.
“What’s your name?” he asked. I thought about several fake names I could tell him but gave up.
“Amber,” I finally said.
“That’s a beautiful name!” he made a pause and traced my face with his eyes. “You can call me J,” he said.
“So, you’re not even going to tell me your real name?” I blurted out and he just shrugged his shoulders while showing me his most charming smile.
“Well, nice to meet you J,” I said quickly and left disappointed that he didn’t make an effort to stop me.
I could go on for days telling you how that was the start of a beautiful and romantic story full of casual encounters developing into a fairytale-like story but it was a lot simpler…or maybe complex; ok, maybe I lied and our encounters did seem like a romantic summer story. You see, the following days I found myself making excuses to go to that same cliff. First, I lied about having lost an earring the day we met. Then, my excuse was that I had to collect rocks for my very new hobby of painting them to decorate my little cottage. And so every time we met, we spent hours talking about why I was such a cold-hearted woman and him confirming that not only I could be a typical superhuman but an android who had been a soldier before dying during a long war and had been reconstructed by a mastermind scientist.
I started counting the days as if I was a death row prisoner because I knew he didn’t belong to this beach and I didn’t belong anywhere else but here.
On the fifth day, he kissed me after telling me how the heroine in his book was going to have a glorious return in the second book after everyone thought she was dead. Maybe it wasn’t the most romantic scene just before our kiss but the image of his smile before crashing with my lips was sweet enough to make me lose my senses. He tasted like salt and sugar combined with the coconut scent of his sunscreen.
By the 7th day I had become his; my defenses destroyed and scattered all over the place along with our clothes and his writings. That night, I didn’t go back home, I slept on his chest regretting nothing but not wearing more attractive underwear. In my sleep, I could hear his voice flying away with the wind and that was the first time I ever felt the longing for something that wasn’t yet lost.
After a couple of weeks, I finally had the courage to pronounce those words I was so eager to say but was too scared to face.
“When are you leaving?” I hoped I had spoken loud enough for him to listen as I didn’t think I could say it again.
He stopped writing but didn’t separate his eyes from the piece of paper in front of him. “I guess that is a relatively hard question to answer,” he spoke in riddle. “It could be as soon as this precise moment or maybe I will never leave.” His answer was so confusing I wondered if he wasn’t understanding at all so I tried again.
“I mean, when are you going back home? To your home country.”
He finally looked at me, his dark eyes full of expectation “I don’t have a home,” he pronounced plainly. I thought maybe I had messed it up and touched a sensitive fiber so I stared at him apologetically.
“Though I guess you can say I’ve belonged to this beach for as long as I can remember.” His eyes were now fixed in the horizon. I could have tried to read in between the lines at that point but I guess I was a more logic person at that time.
I settled with that answer and lied on my back, the warm sand felt nice against my Guns n’ Roses t-shirt.
“I told you before and I just confirmed it,” he started saying again, I was listening but focused on the moving clouds up above. “I can see things in you that you didn’t know existed.”
I raised a hand in front of me, the sunlight slipping through my fingers. “You did say that but I honestly I’m too concerned about surviving life other than recognizing how special I am.” I sounded a lot more bitter than I intended so I turned around expecting him to look hurt or upset but what I saw made me feel I had crashed against a brick wall; he was smiling.
“That’s what I like about you. Since I saw you that one day I could sense your conviction of surviving even though you don’t feel alive.” I couldn’t help but sit down and stare at him in astonishment, he had figured out something about myself I had yet to understand. “But there’s something you are lacking,” he continued with the same contempt in his voice. “You can’t tell between life and death.”
He was delusional, I thought, it was like saying someone can’t tell a dog from a cat! “I think all this sci-fi is getting into you.” I laughed but he didn’t. “Are you serious right now? I was scared of the answer.
“I am, you haven’t even realized what is right in front of you but that makes you even a lot more interesting and amazing!” he thought he was complimenting me but I was starting to feel anxious.
“I think…I need to go,” I finally said and left him sitting by the cliff, my heart pounding and a soft anticipation and fear that he wouldn’t be there the next day but he was, in the same spot, with the same dark eyes against pale skin. His arms stretched behind him, the pages of his notebook flying with the wind.
“I knew you would come back!” he looked at me in amusement.
“Well, I live around here, I was not going to come but then I saw you and came,” I nervously spat out without making any sense.
“Have you figured it out?” he asked and I froze, I wasn’t sure why but I felt something growing inside me, like a gut feeling before something hits you right in the face. He probably realized what I was thinking and smiled, “I wish I was still alive, that way I could stay with you forever,” he finally said and I felt my soul falling down to my feet, my stomach twisted in a way I thought was going to make me throw up. He stood up and walked towards me. When he was close enough he put his hand on my forehead, his touch was cold. “There’s a reason why I told you to call me J. That’s the only letter I can remember from my name,” he explained, "but I think you can help me remember." At that moment I felt an explosion inside my brain and several images started projecting in front of my eyes, something similar to an old movie with random images. Soon after, I saw J, he was standing by the edge of that same cliff I had taken him to, his arms stretched out as if he was a bird ready to fly away. Paralyzed, I saw him disappear into nothingness, I came back feeling nauseous and thought I was going to pass out but J was there supporting my weight.
“What was that?” my voice was breaking. I hold on to J’s t-shirt and was in that moment when I realized how unreal his presence was, like a snowflake melting in my hand.
“Thank you, Amber,” he was very calmed compared to my hysteric self “I’m free now,” he pronounced and just like the waves of the sea; he came and left erasing even the footsteps we had left behind.
I remained in that same spot staring at the place he used to be standing, his scent still present in the air. I felt something heavy against my feet, I looked down and saw a notebook. I picked it up absent-mindedly and scanned the first page with shaky hands.
Amber at the end of the World by Jun Hisashi.
I read the title of the manuscript as if those few words contained the mysteries of the Universe and an unknown truth I was about to discover.
After a few years and the most painful moments I have ever experienced in my life, I gathered all the courage I didn’t know I had before I met Jun and left the little cottage by the beach. I moved to a close by city and put everything of me to do something of importance. For the first time in my 27 years, I had a dream I wanted to reach.
I’m not going to say that my experience brought a miracle to my life; it was hard and I wanted to give up several times but it was Jun’s unfulfilled dream that kept me going until today that I’m standing in front of a local store contemplating his story displayed in the bookshelves.