We three sat in silence, facing the glistening waters beyond the trail and its walkers, joggers, and other passersby. I with my book, she with her kindle, he with his thoughts, sat still. Gulls soared through the gentle breeze and settled on the rippling sea. The steady waves lapped up against the rocks below. The air was cold but pleasant, its crispness clean with a sense of purity, of clarity. Just above the horizon, the sun burned brightly as it passed behind the thin clouds that rested upon the distant watery horizon.
After looking for a place to settle with my book for a few minutes, I was the first to occupy the red benches. Within a few minutes, she in her cream pants and thin blue jacket stopped, captured by the gleaming rays of the sun streaking out along the water. She took a photo with her phone and then settled on the bench in front of mine, joining me in silence with an e-reader in her hands.
We both read for a few minutes. I read sporadically, often watching the passersby and those enjoying the waterfront park. I listened in to catch the occasional familiar word, but mostly I just gazed. She was equally distracted. Her e-reader soon fell asleep as she turned to distractions on her phone. I went back to my book and tried to focus until his steps and ratchet of his bike came toward me.
Walking his bike with its bright green helmet swinging from the handlebar, he guided his way between the benches. Leaving the bike next to my bench, he joined her on the other. His thick black coat hung loosely about his thin frame, and he hugged his arms close against the chill. Legs crossed tightly, he sat straight and tall, and he gazed deeply. So still, so calm was he as he stared into the burning rays of the sun. The slow blink of his eyes, the flutter of the blond tuft of hair on his forehead as the wind crossed his face, were the only motion about him. Deep must have been his thoughts, firm his resolve, steady his concentration.
His stillness held my attention. With my book open upon my leg, I ignored it to watch him in profile as he watched the sun. I envied him and respected his ability to embrace the stillness, to settle his mind and need not for device nor intrigue to fulfill some craving. The world before him was enough. The slow but sure motion of the setting sun and ever-changing yet ever-familiar ripples of the sea were enough. Though we were together, he was alone. He needed only his mind to keep him company.
As the final arc of the sun’s orange disc dipped out of sight, the chill in the air hardened. It pulled at the backs of my hands, bit at my ears and nose, and seeped through my sweater. watched closely as the darkening ripples crossed each other. A gull floated atop them being lifted and lowered again as the small swells passed below him. Without the direct rays of the sun, the water grew dark as the day soon would. The few clouds held feebly to the fading light with a dull orange glow until they turned grey as the sun’s rays escaped even their lofty position. As the light faded, the lights along the edge of the walk illuminated and the street lamps flickered to life. As night came, light remained, but it was artificial, dim, and cold. I shivered.
When I looked back to my right, he was gone. He had slipped away as quietly as he had sat. She stood, looked about to determine her direction, and she too departed. Again, I was the only one. As the sky faded from blue to black, I packed away my book and stood to go. Walking along the path, I looked over the sea to where the sun had been. Now it was but an orange band across the horizon that would linger for hours, the tantalizing hint of its presence, just out of reach. The movement of walking brought needed warmth. The dark has come earlier yet again today. Winter is coming.