Time Will Heal The Scars
The wind blew through his curly black hair as he blew into his saxophone, standing on the boardwalk listening to the sounds of the beach. He had been playing in this spot for years, and the sound to him was like an old shoe. The kind of memory that he could not throw away despite how useless it was. His saxophone case was nearly empty of the coins and bills that it usually contained. Tourist season had ended, and like the birds, everyone had migrated elsewhere for the winter months.
There was a chill on the air coming off the ocean. The man put down his saxophone to rest, leaning his thin back up against the railing of the boardwalk. At 45, he had been gifted with a young face, but the years of playing outside just for money had taken their toll on his hands, and they bore the marks of someone twice his age. He sat with his fingers clasped over his knees and stared out at the ocean, its green-blue waves throwing themselves on the sand with a fury that could only be matched by the wind that seemed to drive it back again. He pulled his coat tighter around his shoulders.
The man closed his eyes and leaned back against the wood. He had seen so much change on this beach. When he had first come from Cuba nearly twenty years ago, the United States had been the promised land, the place where you could do anything or be anyone. In his naivety he had dreamed of baseball, the American dream, only to have it shattered by the reality of racism. He had been filled with the spirit of hope, only to have it chipped away by the general abuse of time.
It seemed only a few years ago that the days of innocence had gone and in their place danced the hippies with their foolish ideas of free love and peace. They had gone the way of every fad, and had faded over the night, but the feeling still remained. There was only a general sense of abandonment. Abandonment of contemporary social values, abandonment of establishment, abandonment of reality as they searched for the perfect drug.
It was the end of a decade now, and gone were the longhaired hippies and their ever smiling predecessors. The air seemed filled with darkness and brooding, a shadowed face painted up with a plastic smile.
The air had brought a chill to his fingers and he struggled to his feet, pulling his saxophone from the case and putting it to his lips. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wind as he began to play, the music lying like a salve on his nerves and bringing a warmth back to his fingers. Time ticked away without any heeding as he blew into his saxophone. When he finally opened his eyes again the sun had begun to set, giving a warm pink-orange glow to the sky. He put his saxophone into his case and snapped it shut with a sharp click. Picking it up, he slowly made his way down the boardwalk towards the pier.
By the time he had reached the end of the pier the sun was nearly gone. He set down his case and leaned against the cement base of the beacon. He had made this journey everyday since he had come here, to stare out over the ocean and dream. They had been idle dreams, but there was no harm in dreams. Over time he had been jaded by reality and now he only came to the pier out of ritual, as if bidden to do so by some unseen hand.
He sat, drinking in the scent of the sea and the fading light. This ritual, no matter how old or how jaded he had become, always brought a strange sense of comfort to him and he began to relax. His eyelids began to sink as he stared across the water. All he could hear was the washing of the waves against the shore and they made a soothing sound to his battered ears.
There was a sudden squeak of tennis shoes on the pier and he could feel someone behind him. He opened his eyes, but there seemed to be no one there. The sound of sobbing brought him to his feet, and he slowly made his way around the cement beacon in the direction of the cries.
A young girl had set herself down against another side of the beacon facing the cold water and the darkness of night. Against his better judgment, he eased himself down next to her. She seemed not to notice him as she stared out across the water. With time the cries subsided and her shoulders shook silently while the tears slowly made tracks down her cheeks.
The man spoke, "When I was a boy, I used to come down to the ocean and stare across the water and wonder if there really was such a thing as America."
The girl started. She had been so caught up in her grief that she had never heard him sit beside her.
He leaned forward, resting his chin on his knees.
"After my mother died, I would come to this pier just to think, to dream..." he paused to catch his breath and then realized that he didn't even know what he was saying.
The two sat in silence for several minutes. Slowly they became two shadows against the pier. He glanced over at the girl again. She had become silent, still staring straight ahead, and the tears continued to flow down her cheeks. Something in him wanted to reach out and comfort her, but he couldn't.
As the last glimpses of sun passed over the horizon time seemed to stand still. The silence was like some sort of strange barrier between the two. He had nothing to say and she was unwilling to vocalize her thoughts. Time dragged on limitlessly.
Finally she spoke. "I loved him," she said with a crack in her voice. Then she fell silent for a few minutes.
"I thought that I loved him anyways. Obviously I was wrong." She angrily reached up to brush the tears from her eyes.
The man simply sat in silence. There was nothing that he could think of to say that would at all help the situation, so he simply sat, and listened.
"Everything was so perfect. Then he met that other girl." She paused. "I don't even know her name, but I hate her. She took him away from me." Her voice became angry. "He was the only one who cared about me..."
Slowly the whole story poured out as the girl continued to speak. Her father had abandoned her and her mother when she was only five. They had come home and he was gone. Her mother worked three jobs just to keep them alive and she never saw her. When she met the boy at school, she was smitten. At the beginning of her sophomore year of high school he had asked her out and she, completely overwhelmed, had agreed. He was her first boyfriend, and the first two months had been like a dream. Then he had met the other girl. She hadn't noticed at first, but slowly he became more and more withdrawn. From time to time she would catch him throwing glances towards the other girl. She had pretended not to notice, but the damage was already done. It was only a matter of time before the relationship had crumbled and the secure walls that she had built around her feelings had come crashing down. In her desperation she had come here, to think.
The man took all this in without saying anything. He didn't know what to say.
Finally he spoke. "Sometimes dreams are not what they seem. We wish for things, and when we receive them, they aren't good enough, or they aren't what we expected. Time will heal the scars."
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, but he was still facing the sea, as if talking to himself. Finally, with a sigh, he picked himself up off the floor, retrieved his saxophone case, and slowly made his way back down the pier. She stared after him, and then turned back to the sea.
The man pulled his coat around his shoulders a little tighter as the night air bore down on him. At the end of the pier he turned back towards the other end. The girl was still sitting, silent, leaning against the cement beacon. He turned back towards land and walked on.
As if from a dream, he heard a splash and turned back again to the pier, but she was already gone. It was too late. He would never reach her in time and the water of March would kill her before anyone would ever reach her. He struggled inwardly, wrestling in his mind, and then finally turned back towards home, and walked on.
"Such a waste over such a little hurt," he thought. He still struggled with himself. The incident had shaken him more than he wanted to admit. He walked on. As he reached the boardwalk, a boy about the same age as the girl came pounding down the wooden slats carrying a baseball bat. When he reached the man he stopped to catch his breath.
"Have you seen her?" he asked between breaths.
The man stood silent, unable to form an answer.
"Have you seen her?" the boy asked again, leaning on his bat.
Silently the man waved his hand towards the pier. There was nothing else he could do. He reached out and put his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Time will heal the scars." He didn't know if he even believed that anymore, but he repeated it again with tears in his eyes.
"Time will heal the scars."