Lazy rays of sunlight fell upon a scene that well enough described itself, forcing through cloud to catch a glimpse of a place once almost idyllic. Waves licked against the cliffside like flames against paper, with the splash of an occasional stone being the only sign of a chink in the face’s armour, casting a proud shadow over the body of water below. This cliff may stand for thousands more years, but it was the man sat on top who was crumbling.
The romance of the scene was not lost on him, as he looked out from his vantage, feeling smaller every second. He’d had a postcard of this place once, and he imagined that if he were to compare the image that lay in front of him with the one captured in ink it would stand up fairly well. Of course, the card would be tattered and ripped after all this time, but somehow that seemed appropriate when he considered that the real thing couldn’t remain unchanged by time either. In the artist’s head, the colours were bright; in the light of an overcast February afternoon, they seemed dull and murky, as a cold wind bit at his skin.
He shook himself alert, surprised and almost annoyed by his mood. He would have described it as melancholic if it wasn’t for the sharp feelings of doubt that he carried along with it, and for a moment he wished that he smoked. He wanted something to do, and a more irrational part of him was thirteen again, telling him that it would have fitted the scene. Unfortunately he didn’t, so he picked up a blade of grass and began knotting it in his fingers. The hint of a smile passed his lips as he conceded that this alternative was definitely less edgy, if at least healthier.
This perch had been his home for the past few hours, and it wasn’t until now that he realised how idle he’d been. His was the kind of spot that usually gave way to an activity; families came with picnic baskets, setting down blankets and panicking every time the kids played too close to the edge. Bird watchers came with their binoculars, hoping to glimpse something that wasn’t another sodding seagull. People came here with their dogs, and couples probably came here for some dogging. Whatever it was, for the time that it took his spot was theirs, and as he took another look out he considered that he’d been fortunate to exist here alone. Although, perhaps not as glad as the doggers.
He frowned at his own crudeness, snapping the grass in his fingers. He had the entire uninterrupted range of his thoughts at his disposal, and he had already derailed that train into the gutter. He cast a searching gaze back out over the water, looking for something to latch himself onto and give due attention. He settled on the waves, for a moment caught in their rhythm. He’d never indulged in anything too far beyond the literal, or subscribed to any flimsy thought considered profound; as he focused on the sea, he knew that to him it would only ever be water. But for a moment he wished that he could see it as something else. He wished that he could see the billions of people in that body of blue, carried together from the same place until they crashed against the rocks, forming their own waves, rivers and tidepools. He wished he could see the meeting of land and sea as a battle, and root for a side.
For a second, he wished he wasn’t sat there alone.
But as the moment passed, he stopped wishing for anything but waves and water. And the man on the cliff kept crumbling.