When I dream of him, I see him standing at the water’s edge with a peaceful smile on his face. He looks out at the horizon, dressed in his usual khakis and white button-down, not seeming to notice that his pants are wet to the knees. I almost forget that he’s no longer weighed down by the heaviness of living.
All of the other beachgoers completely ignore him. Surely, someone would have noticed a man walking into the ocean fully clothed. I guess it’s more likely he was wearing swim trunks, but I never saw him that way. Always with his business casual uniform and a slight, hidden smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth when he saw me, like he was amused by his own personal joke.
I feel an insect land on my arm and begin to help itself to my blood. My eyes instinctively try to find the source, as I swat it away, violently. When I look back to him, he’s gone. My eyes search the beach, but the only evidence that he was ever there floats in the distance, abandoned in the water: khakis and a white button-down.
He foreshadowed his exit; he gave me a copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin. The thing about foreshadowing is that you rarely notice it as you’re reading the story. You’re just left looking back, asking yourself how you didn’t see it coming.
When I wake, I’m assaulted by the usual zoo inside my head. All of my thoughts pile on top of one another, insisting each is more important than the rest. Everything goes quiet, but the sound of the surf, when I remember him, standing there on the beach in my dream.
I imagine he is teaching in a quiet beachside town, where no one would ever recognize him. Standing in front of a blackboard, looking at his class with a slight, hidden smile that tugs at the corners of his mouth.
The Ray Bradbury Noun List Twist – Nouns: insect, water, arm, thoughts, zoo.