Can you hear the sea?
When Aurora moved to a city far away from her village when she was 23, she had firmly decided that she would never return to her village. Except of course, to visit her mom every Christmas. Her mom had decided that she would live her whole life in that little coastal village until her death. No amount of pleading or begging would make her change her mind. She always insisted that she would never feel comfortable if she moved too far away from the sea. After all, she had lived all her life close to the sea. Aurora never understood her mother’s attachment to the sea. She liked going to the beach, but she never understood the bond, the roots, and the feelings her mother felt by being in this coastal village that had remained the same over the last 10 years. Whenever Aurora told her mother that she intended to leave this dreadful place, her mother would tell her, “Aurora, the sea will call you back home someday.” In the end, Aurora decided to move away alone because she realised she had to run away from her past if she wanted a future.When she heard about her mother’s sudden death in February, Aurora rushed back home. She was heartbroken because she never imagined her mother would leave suddenly. She never got a chance to say goodbye. But what hurt her even more is that the very next moment after she had buried her mother, she could not recall her mother’s face. She couldn’t picture her mother’s beautiful, kind smile. She could neither picture her mother’s long grey hair nor her soft, tender hands. All she could do was look at her mother’s picture to remember her. Aurora cried for days looking at all her mother’s pictures on her phone. Finally, she decided it was time to move on. She archived and moved all her mother’s pictures from her phone to the cloud. Next, she had to sort through all the junk her mother had collected over the years. There was so much stuff! She knew she needed years if she had to look at each item before deciding if it needed to be discarded or preserved. How was she going to do all of this in a month? She had applied for leave for 3 weeks and there were only a couple of days remaining.
“This is going to take forever!”
“Mom, why did you leave me with all this mess?”
“Oh my back hurts!”
“I wish there was more time for me to sort all this stuff. It would be a shame to throw all of it without sorting. It would be disrespectful to her. She obviously used all this stuff and probably had some sentimental values with some of the stuff here.”
“At this rate, I’m never going to finish sorting.”
As she was sorting through the stuff, she received a call from her manager. He wanted to have a meeting with her at the earliest. Aurora was just about to ask for an extension on her leave when her manager interrupted her and informed her that the meeting would include the HR manager as well. He gave her a heads-up that things were not looking too good with their company at the moment so Aurora would have to brace for some unpleasant news. While this was not news to her, Aurora did get an unpleasant feeling that she may be asked to resign. Several of her colleagues were asked to resign in the last couple of weeks. Aurora was prepared that she would share the same fate as the others. However, since she had to urgently leave for her mother’s funeral, her manager decided to prolong her employment. But it looked like he wasn’t able to do it for long. The next day when Aurora had the meeting with the HR manager, Aurora was prepared to resign voluntarily. But she was in for a surprise.
“You’ve done a pretty good job with all your submissions all these years. You’ve also delivered good quality consistently and have met all your project schedules. Keeping all this in mind, even though we have to let you go, we are considering offering you a part-time contract for all the upcoming projects for the next 6 months. Would you be interested? Also, you’d need to work from your home as a part-time employee,” said her manager.
“Given my situation, I think this is perfect for me. I would be happy to take this up!,” replied Aurora.
Aurora was relieved that she would still be able to work and earn some money. What she needed at the moment was to be here at home to sort stuff but at the same time, she wanted some other work to distract her mind.
With a perfect work arrangement, Aurora had a new routine in her life. “I’m going to wake up in the morning at 7 AM, have a quick breakfast while I begin my work assignments for that day. I’ll work until 12 PM and then lunch! Post lunch, I will sort the stuff in the house and clean up the house. At 5:00 PM, I will go to the beach and then get back home and relax!”
“I think this is a good routine!”
“I can do this forever!”
Aurora’s mornings flew pretty quick with work. It was only in the noon that the day got hotter and minutes seemed to go like hours when she was sorting stuff.
“I need to sort the attic today. I wonder what’s stuffed in there.”
She pulled down a few boxes from the attic. “OOOh! What’s in here? Pictures! Who are all these people?”
“Looks like mom when she was younger! Oh that’s me in her arms. It’s the same beach I go to! I was such a scrawny baby! I wonder who and where are all these other people?", she muttered while staring at the tiny faces in the picture. "Maybe they are mum's friends. There are so many pictures of mom with all these people! Strange that I haven't seen any of them or heard mom speak about them.”
“Wow! I didn’t realise Mom had so many friends! It’s sad that none of them attended her funeral. I wonder if they even heard about her death.”
“Maybe they didn’t.”
“Should I inform them?”
“Looking at these pictures, I think they need to know. But how am I going to find them?”
“I wish mom had told me about them.”
“Would these people be on social media? Most people are, older people too. But how will I find them if I don’t know their names?”
At that moment, the alarm in her phone rang and she knew it was time to head to the beach. She quickly changed into shorts and a t-shirt. She put on some sunscreen, wore her cap, and flip flops, took her phone and walked out.
“It’s cooler outside the house than inside and there’s a gentle breeze blowing. I hope there’s a low tide at the beach. It will be nice to walk on the shore for a while.”
Aurora reached the beach in 20 minutes. However, to her dismay, it was high tide. The waves were stronger and encroaching the beach.
“I can still walk along the shore for a while.”
She left her flip flops a little away on the shore and started walking. She saw the usual people at the beach going for their daily walks. She didn’t smile at them. They didn’t smile at her.
“No….! Did I just feel a drop of rain on my face?,” she said aloud while looking up at the sky. “That definitely felt like rain.”
“I don’t have an umbrella. Even if I leave right now, I’m going to get caught in the rain. Should I just wait at the shack near the entrance of the beach or should I make a dash and run back home? I don’t think I will be able to outrun the rain. Maybe I should just wait at the shack.”
Aurora quickly walked back toward the shack. On the way, she looked for her flip-flops. “This is strange. I remember leaving them here. Where are they? Did someone steal them? Did one of the locals steal them? What am I going to do? I’ll have to walk home barefoot. I can’t! How will I walk home barefoot? What if I step on something?”
“I shouldn’t have left them here!” exclaimed Aurora.
“Excuse me,” came a voice from behind her.
“Where you looking for your slippers?,” Aurora looked at him with bewilderment as he held one slipper in his hand.
“That’s mine! Where did you find it?,” Aurora asked.
“They were swept away suddenly by a huge wave. I’m sorry, I could only retrieve one of them,” said the boy.
“It’s a pity you only managed to save one slipper. What am I going to do with just one?,” Aurora replied sarcastically.
The boy was taken aback. Aurora suddenly realised that she may have sounded rude.
“I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have said it that way. Thanks for saving at least one of my slippers. But honestly, I can’t walk back home with just one slipper. And it’s going to rain now, so I guess I have to wait for the rain to stop because I don’t have an umbrella. And then I have to walk in the slush because the sea swallowed my slipper. This evening to turning quite eventful.” Aurora could still not hide the sarcasm in her voice. The boy looked the other way as he probably regretted saving her slipper.
It started to pour and they rushed to the shack to save themselves from the wind and the rain. Unfortunately, when it rains by the sea, you will get wet and that is what happened. Drenched from head to toe, with just one slipper, Aurora sure was a sad sight.
When it stopped raining, the boy who was equally drenched asked her, “do you want me to drop you off home? If you can wait a couple of minutes, I can get my car and drop you home.”
“This boy looks too young to be driving. Did he just get his driving license? I can’t trust his driving. What if we meet with an accident on the way? Oh! This will be too much for me! I better come up with some excuse and refuse politely,” thought Aurora.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ve asked a friend to come pick me up. So that’s fine. I’ll just wait here until he comes,” replied Aurora.
“Alright. Bye. Get home safely,” said the boy.
“Why would this little boy tell me to get home safely? I’m not a little child. How annoying?,” thought Aurora.
Aurora waited for a while. She didn’t want the boy to find out that she had lied. She waited for about 10 minutes and then walked home barefoot. She cursed and grumbled and mumbled all the way home.
As soon as she reached home, she scrubbed her feet and soaked them in water with bath salts, disinfectant, and whatever else she could find in her mother’s cabinet. Even after all that scrubbing and soaking, she still could feel the dirt under her toe nails.
“I wish I could get a manicure here! But of course, how can I get one in this village?” She then had her dinner, fed the cat, and went to bed.
Lying in bed, she thought about the boy. He looked familiar but of course, she couldn’t remember his face now. “It sucks to have aphantasia. Why do I have it? It just makes everything more complicated!” Aurora looked at the pictures of the beach she had clicked. They came out much better than she had expected. The dark clouds matched with the grey waves but contrasted with the whitish sand. “Beautiful and mesmerising!,” she said as she fell asleep.
That night she dreamt. It was a long dream and it was one that she had never had before. She saw people in her dream. A few young men and women were on a boat in the sea. They were laughing and singing and having fun. It seemed like a picnic. A young woman was holding Aurora on her lap. Aurora was 4 years old in that dream. It was a beautiful and happy dream.
The next morning Aurora woke up with no recollection of the faces she had seen in her dream. But the dream seemed real. It was like she had experienced it sometime in her life. “My mind must have created this dream because of the pictures I had seen yesterday.” She brushed aside her thoughts of her dream and proceeded to get started with her work for the day.