This is the cycle of life, he thinks as he watches the ocean. Beer bottles returning to shore, no matter how far you throw them. They always come back. At first it seems as if they are heading right for the firmament, then they reconsider and fall back into the water, the splashing hardly audible over the murmur of the waves.
He has spent all day at the beach, drinking and thinking and drinking some more. Went here straight from the airport. Didn’t even take the time to find a hotel. He was confused. Overwhelmed. People don’t come here to die, he thinks, they come here to live. Or at least that’s what they tell you in the adds. No sick or old or fading people, only happiness and sunshine. Tanned, muscular bodies, giggles, curves – the whole nine yards.
His father came here to die. The last place on earth they would have searched for him. The postcard was in the mail just a few days back , with a picture of the most beautiful sunset cliché – “I decided to try something new, since the doctors said they wanted no piece of my skinny ass… please don’t tell your mom, it will be too late anyway. Come and pick me up when I'm done.” – the original words. His father had always been very straightforward, up to the point of being rude. Once at a family reunion he had made Aunt Margie cry. It had been a memorable occasion for the rest of the family, who had always been afraid of this impressing woman. And now he had simply left the hospital, with his tiny emergency suitcase, and headed straight for the airport. Crazy old guy. Spent about two weeks here, it seems, exploring the island.
There are no bills to pay, no loose ends to tie up. His father was very thorough. Paid everything in cash. Several people will probably remember the old man, fondly, his generosity and the bright smile, as if he had all the time to see the rest of the world as well. No one would expect that this was the first time he ever left his home country – the only time. He came here to watch the incredibly blue sea, rivaled only by the sky stretching above it, which now is a tent sprinkled with myriads of sparkling stars, fresh and lovely against a sky that could never be described as black.
He smiles as he thinks about it. There are worse places in the world to die, really. Tomorrow there will be lots of paperwork waiting for him, but this is it, tonight, here, just like this. No family, no responsibilities. His mother will probably be at home right now, rummaging through the drawers, searching for a testament – hoping for a fortune to miraculously turn up somewhere. She is a very practical woman. Maybe she did not love her husband after forty-three years of marriage. Maybe she got used to the thought of him dying, of being alone, while her husband was slowly eaten up from the inside. Pancreatic cancer. Now that it’s over, everything will be easier. More peaceful. Kind of.
As he wanders along the beach, he imagines his father on his last day on earth, taking in the smells of this exotic place, luxuriating in the sunshine, tasting strange fruit. Flirting with the women – not only the beautiful. He used to like women, simply because they were women. And he used to laugh a lot.
He knows his father was not alone when he died. Someone placed a call to the hospital. Someone helped him during these last few hours, administered the painkillers. Held him, hopefully. Showed him the ocean – far from home. Home, with its dry lands and greenish-brown patches of grass. The place where their house was, where no one ever really lived.
His father must have loved it here. He made a choice and stuck to it. Sent him the postcard. Gave his second son the chance to see something new, between working at the garage and fighting in court over the right to see his own kids. “There must be more to life than this.” Sounds like a cliché, hu? But the old man was so right.
The young man buries his toes in the sand. Thinks of fresh exotic fruit, sliced and ready to be savored. Thinks of chocolate-colored women. Smiles. The sand tickles under his feet, then is washed away by the warm ocean waves.