I lifted the phone from the receiver and dialled. I pulled the phone under the duvet with me to muffle the sound as I heard it ring at the other end. I listened for other sounds in the house and heard nothing.
After a moment, I could hear my friend’s voice. “Hello?”
“Richard, it’s me. You up for a little adventure? I can’t sleep.”
“I never sleep. I’m just up working as usual. It’s a new piece. Mainly reds this time. I made a chicken curry for dinner, there’s a new Filipino market where I can get chilli paste, I think “I Love Lucy” is on in a minute. What time are you coming over?”
I stifled a laugh. He always spoke like this, random thoughts spilling in one after the other, but always returning to the main point of the conversation.
“I’ll be there in about 30 minutes. Mom and Dad are asleep. I just need to throw on some jeans and get the car out. Be ready. We won’t have much time.”
I hung up and found some clothes that I had thrown in the corner of the room and got ready. Within a few minutes I was creeping towards the livingroom and out the front door. My car sat at the edge of driveway, left there, a little off from the house by design. Coming home from college earlier that day, I had dreamt up my little midnight trip.
I slithered into the bucket seat and released the break, rolling the car from the driveway until I thought is was safe to turn the engine. Twenty minutes later I was pulling up to Richard’s studio flat in Redlands. It was a comfortable room with a futon, small kitchen and bathroom. The walls were covered with art of every genre and easels took up what little space remained once he moved his futon and sofa into place. There were stacks of his work leaning against the walls and his latest work sat on his largest easel with a cover over it. The kitchen was forever producing foods and smells and teas that were strange to me. Where I was a product of fast food and Mexican cooking, he experimented with tastes from around the world I was never brave enough to sample.
I knock on the door and he shouted for me to enter. He had his jacket in hand and wore his signature black tee-shirt and trousers. I don’t believe he owned a single garment of colour. It was as though he reserved all colour for the canvas.
“Let’s go.” I said
“Really? All this fuss for Dunken Donuts?”
“These are really good donuts. You’ll see.”
We chattered away for the next hour until we reached the pier at Newport Beach. There was life all around despite the late hour. Nearly 2am and people were wandering along the waterfront. Some were couples drinking from concealed bottles on the beach, others were fishermen making their way to the end of the pier to cast their lines.
We made our way to the donut shop and came way with two glazed bars and coffees. We hardly spoke, but munched on our treats until we stood at the end of the pier. At that moment, I could have been alone with nothing but the moon and the sound of the sea. I closed my eye and listen to the Ocean. The waves broke against the pillars that held the pier and the structures on it. Seagulls screamed and flew close, unafraid for the fishermen’s bait.
Cold wind and mist brushed my skin and all at once, I felt at peace. If Richard spoke, I didn’t hear it. I might have made some noise or mumbled some response to his comments, but my mind was on autopilot.
When we judged it was time to go, for me to get back and sneak to my bed before my parents awoke, we left and made the hour journey back.
At Richard’s front door, we parted company with a promise to do that more often and I made my way home.
Since those early days I’ve tried to be close to the sea. I chose my home in San Francisco a block away from the pier, so I could hear the sounds of the sea lions barking at night. In London I strolled along the Thames and stood on Westminster bridge watching the light of Parliament reflect on the surface of the river, sometimes venturing south to the coast where I could smell the salt air of Brighton and Eastbourne.
Sadly, in recent years, I’ve neglected that thing I could always rely upon to give me peace. The Lochs of Scotland, have been overlooked as have the chances to venture up to the sea. I’ve forgotten what it was like to stand at the edge of land on uneven ground of mixed-coloured pebbles watching the mist on the water.
I’ve decided something. This week I’ll take the car and drive until I find a stretch of water with a donut or pastry shop. I’ll stand at the edge of water and take it all in, wash away the stresses of the day and try to find a little piece of what I’ve been missing these years.
Different people have different connections to water – some have never seen the ocean and I pity them.
Write about what you think of the sea…