Friday, April 02, 2010

Voyage


{Topsail Beach, Newfoundland)

He folded his jacket and placed it just so, high up enough on the stones of the beach that the tide wouldn’t get to it.

You’d think he was going to do what he always did every morning for the last ten years.

Ever since he moved back home from the mainland.

His own routine. If you were watching you’d say tai-chi and change your mind and say qi dong and then you’d catch those karate moves followed by some push-ups on the grass above the beach and think it was a unique workout of his own. Which paid off because for a man in his sixties he exuded health and a physical elasticity rare at his age. A very positive man, you’d say.

But this one morning there last week, after his workout, or maybe not, along with the jacket he took off his running shoes and lined them up right beside it. Neatly. He was a neat man. You’d never see a sweat on him after those workouts and his entire repertoire of moves would take about an hour.

The truck was what was noticed first. And that was the following morning, very early. It stood out as it was the only truck there in the parking lot at that hour. Frosted up, so it was there for a while. And then you walked down the steps to the beach and there was this jacket and those shoes. Covered in frost also. Alarm bells went off. The police were called.

It looked bad, they said. It was the shoes that were the giveaway and then to top it off the truck held all his ID, his wallet, even his passport.

So the divers from St. John’s were called in and they spent days and days. And lots of volunteers combed the beach. And volunteers sailed in on boats with grappling hooks and those complicated telescopes for looking down to the bottom of the sea.

And six days go by and not a trace and no one comes forward either to claim a relationship with him. And maybe he just left his old life and began something new somewhere else. But you’d always go back to those shoes lined up which put a stop to that line of thinking.

And it was a young lad that found him on the seventh day, twenty kilometres down the coast at another beach. He thought it was a big bundle of rags at first. And then he spotted those swollen, naked feet and had sense enough to run home and tell his mother who called the police.

And yesterday, I drive the coastal road beside that long, last, lonely voyage of his. And think of the distance he travelled. And ponder on what his last thoughts were as he sank shoeless into Mother Ocean’s waiting arms.

20 comments:

  1. What a beautiful, powerful reflection. Thank you for sharing it. I especially love your last line, "sank shoeless into Mother Ocean’s waiting arms". It speaks of such peace. Thanks again.

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  2. Can't begin to guess what he was thinking when he went into the water, can't have been thinking too much at all when he sank...

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  3. What sort of empty despair leads a man to this?

    Beautifully written, as always.

    I wonder who he left behind. Tonight we are having dinner at the home of a friend whose son killed himself. It nearly killed her.

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  4. Welcome VP2010 and thank you for your kind comment. I do hope it was peaceful for him.
    XO
    WWW

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  5. Annie:
    I often wonder whether someone who does this has a change of heart and can't undo the process. I think of the freezing cold on his poor feet.....
    XO
    WWW

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  6. 20CW:
    Oh I am so sorry for your friend. You must have known him. Ho incredibly tragic.
    Suicide cuts really close to the bone for me.
    XO
    WWW

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  7. Thank you Sean. It is all true and happened a couple of days ago.
    XO
    WWW

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  8. Sounds like one of those cases where nobody has any idea why he wanted to end his life. He was fit and healthy, no obvious personal crisis, yet he decides he's had enough. Tragic and baffling.

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  9. How very heartbreaking for him and those whose lives he touched. Beautiful words, WWW.

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  10. So wonderfully written, powerful in a poignant way. Poor man - we never know what is in another's heart do we.

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  11. It's sad that there was no other way for him to leave this life. Tat he had to go in the cold freezing ocean. It must have been very difficult. I'll think about him a lot now. Poor man.

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  12. Nick:
    it possibly could have been one small thing, or even bad news from a doctor and he living alone. We'll never know but I find it extraordinarily haunting.
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Hull:
    Despair must have been gripping him. And not to tslk to anyone.
    A life of quiet desperation at the end, I imagine.
    XO
    WWW

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  14. Pauline:
    We don't. I've been with cheerful people one night and next thing I find out they've been planning their successful suicide all along. Baffling.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. GSW:
    I'd say it was very quick, it's very chilly there even when I swam in it in summer.
    I don't know what other alternatives there would be without leaving a mess.
    XO
    WWW

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  16. www - That's one thing that seems to come up a lot with suicides, they appear cheerful and unworried on the surface, while underneath they're in despair and looking for a way out. But they're too self-contained (or too defeatist) to confide in anyone else.

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  17. A chilling report, WWW - in a style that forces the reader to go on, even when they suspect there'll be a bad end to it all.

    It's such a strange combination - a man who cared enough to exercise and improve his body and mind, yet cared little enough to destroy his body end it all.

    I wonder if he left a note which hasn't yet been found, and might explain his reason.

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  18. Nick:
    Yes, any I have known have been like that. One sat down with daughter and I in a restaurant, just to catch up. On top of the world, it appeared and the following day he took his own life. He had purchased all the paraphernalia to do so during the five days before.
    XO
    WWW

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  19. I find it all so puzzling, T. No note and of course police are not disclosing if there were rellies, etc. My thinking is it was possibly a broken heart and a fairly sudden decision.
    It follows closely behind another a week before which was equally chilling.
    XO
    WWW

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