By Michael Hu Xiuxian
The man lay down on his bed and stretched his aching muscles, groaning with pleasurable pain. For the past few weeks he had been on vacation, his skin still showing the effects of spending too many hours in the sun. After spending a month by the sea, he was ready to go home. A breeze blew through the open door of his beachside villa, evaporating the small beads of sweat that had formed on his brow.
QLRS Vol. 4 No. 4 Jul 2005
Despite the humidity, the man felt completely relaxed. He basked in the heat, letting himself fall into the embrace of the warm weather. Sleep began to creep over his waking mind.
He was six years old and building his first sandcastle on a beach, like the one he was vacationing on now. He looked out to the ocean and wondered how far it stretched. It seemed like a long way to the little boy. There he sat, adding sand to his masterpiece, pondering the depth of eternity.
He was at the drive-in, watching a movie with a pretty girl named Anna. Except he wasn't watching the movie, he was watching her instead. She saw him looking at her out of the corner of her eye, and turned to face him. He nervously reached out to touch her blonde hair, his heart beating fast. She smiled at him with her pretty brown eyes, and gave him his first kiss. He was lost in the euphoria, grasping the notion of love.
He stood in front of the crowd, hearing his named being called out. He reached out and took his degree, shaking his professor's hand. He spotted his parents in the crowd, their faces beaming with pride. He was no longer a child, he reminded himself. From now on, he would have to face the world on his own. He returned to his seat, coming to grips with the future.
He paced nervously in the corridor, walking back and forth. He checked his watch, even though he'd only checked it a few minutes before. He took a deep breath, and gave a huge sigh of relief as he heard the baby's first cry. An hour later, he held his son for the first time, and understood the responsibility that was now his.
He stood in the rain, watching them lower Anna into the ground. He wept again, and his son tried to comfort him. He remembered hearing the news over the phone, and knew he should never have let her drive in the rain that night. He kissed her coffin one last time, and walked away, because he was now alone.
He lay on his bed by the beach, the sound of the waves coaxing him into a deep sleep, deeper than any he had ever had before. He watched as everything darkened, but he was not afraid. He felt a sense of peace, and smiled. He heard the sound of the waves, and suddenly saw a beautiful shore beckoning him to come closer. He felt happiness in his heart, because this was where he was supposed to be, and he knew he was going home.
The maid paused at the villa's open door. Slowly, she walked in, pausing as she saw the old man on the bed. The room was slightly messy, and she told herself that it needed to be cleaned. She slowly made her way across the room, and gently touched him on his shoulder, asking him if he would like the room cleaned. He did not stir, and his chest did not rise with breath. A single tear fell from the maid's eye onto the bed, but she was not crying out of sadness. She was not sad, because she knew he had gone home.