I haven’t bought a stamp, or even written an address on the envelope, because this letter is destined for a special place that cannot be postmarked. If you have found this, I am grateful. Before I can even consider going home after this summer holiday, I need to get a few things off my chest. Writing seems to be the only way for me to communicate at the moment. Just like how art has always been your main language.
Even in the little things in this place I see the resemblance to your creativity. The shushing sound of the waves as they brush against the shore, like the easing sound of you accidentally spilling paint on your worn wooden desk. But we’d still laugh at your clumsiness as long as it didn’t ruin your work. Then I notice the wavering of the swing back and forth in the summer breeze. Whatever change of weather came, the swing would go with it, similar to your artistic ideas. You would go with whatever came at you. I have to agree, you were a spontaneous character. If we were ever bored, you’d always find something interesting to do. I will always remember one day at my house, when out of the blue, you decided to dress up the dog as someone out of your favourite film, “Grease”. I was certain Rex truly enjoyed being a ‘Pink lady’ for a day! With his ‘Frenchie’ inspired curlers and manicured nails (that obviously you had painted!), he looked perfect for beauty school!
And now, I spot some child’s simple scrawlings etched in the sand, leaving some kind of insignificant message that have personal meanings behind them, just like your innocent paintbrush strokes that perfect your masterpiece. These are just tiny reminders of my favourite artist’s unique style, but they all seem to count for something now.
Of course, today is a dark day at the beach since Nature’s best friend became lost. It must have happened too quickly for you to realise. I fear telling you about it but I’m afraid ever since I witnessed this terrible disaster of nature. I have the fear that it was my fault. That I was to blame. But maybe you still would have done your own thing. You were always independent. And now I’d like to think you’re a star shining in your own unique light in the sky. One of the brightest, of course.
I’m afraid I will forget you like you’re already forgetting me. I can’t let that happen. That would be more painful than reliving the tragedy. So maybe I’ll replay it in my mind to make sense of it and to remember you.
It was the most beautiful day – an artist’s paradise. The sun was a welcome, warm presence in the sapphire sky, and there was no sign of trouble approaching. There was a sea of people sunbathing on coloured towels, hoping to get a tan. The atmosphere was generally calm, which was normal, since storms don’t disrupt Sonnenheiss beach. We were on our summer break from school and we were strolling along the beach at the time.
“Fun!” you cheered, as you spotted a swing on the far side of the beach. It seemed to me there was a dark cloud hovering over that area, almost darker than the tanned behinds we had glimpsed beforehand. Without warning, you grabbed my arm and ran, like a lunatic, pulling me with you to the swing. I had been dreaming of ice cream all along, to be honest.(I was always a lover of food!) So to be whisked off in the complete opposite direction to all the refreshing lemonade and mouth-watering sundaes, you can see why I didn’t like it one bit. Not that it mattered about the sudden lack of summer snacks. In the whole beach, this section you had pulled me to was like the runt of a litter of puppies. Where everywhere else had been summer sunshine, this seemed like winter, and I did not like the sudden coldness.
It was very quiet and there were no people around. You gestured me to sit down. I was wary but you were insistent. I was glad you temporarily gave up caring if I would avail of the opportunity or not. There was only one swing anyway, and you were dying to try it out. But you promised me I would get my turn, no matter what.
You swung back and forth, slow and then fast. It was old and rusty, I thought it would break. I sat on the sand beside the swing, anxiously dreading my turn. But, luckily for my fears, it didn’t come.
From the heights you reached, you could see almost every part of the beach, you said. You could also make out boats far away and the occasional dolphin leaping into the air and diving into the sea again. It was a beautiful scene that had caught your eye, that had distracted you from your swinging. You brought the swing to a halt. By this time, the overhead cloud seemed so close and dark, I expected a storm to follow, and I was right. It seemed that what the forecasters believed was unimaginable was happening. And the shock did not stop there.
I could hear hundreds of freshly sun baked girls screaming in contempt at the abrupt change in weather for ruining their summer looks, while their drenched boyfriends came scurrying back to them from their surfing session on the once settled sea, like drowned rats. I could also hear them leaving. I was hoping we would do the same. But you were adamant to get closer to the sea and take a picture as a template for your future artwork. I stayed near the trusty swing and for the first time ever, I disagreed with you. “No!” I shouted. But you replied to me in such a calm, articulate manner. “Every adventure, no matter how tough or simple, is an opportunity for an artist. Please don’t make me suffer for denying me inspiration for art!” Always the optimist. But that was it. Your last words. But you always got the last word in our meaningless tiffs, so I could never really maintain an opposing opinion. I had never seen such a monstrous wave like it. You had just been standing on the edge of the sea’s greedy mouth when, in a nanosecond, the waves, like giant lips, engulfed you in the freakish storm. The whole ordeal was rather like the way a spoiled, gluttonous child wolfs down a sweet cupcake given to them by their exhausted parents just to satisfy them. They would be content for a while but soon enough, they would be hungry for more. I just hope the sea won’t find its next victim.
So I have to apologise. I’m sorry, Grace. I’m sorry I didn’t do something that could have stopped Heaven taking a new angel. I’m sorry I didn’t pull you away as the monster wave was approaching. And above all, I’m sorry I didn’t save you when your colourful imagination led you to danger so wild not even your great ideas could defeat it. A real friend would have saved you, like you saved me when I hit rock bottom. I regret how I failed you. You could see what depression was like firsthand, eating away at me. You were looking at me and I was there physically but it felt like my soul was missing inside. Now I’m alone to see it and figure it out for myself.
But this time, I’m going to change. I won’t see dark clouds everywhere I turn. I’ll see bright rainbows, cheerful arcs that lead to pots of gold! (Yes, Grace, I know there aren’t really pots of gold, but you would agree there are pots of positivity around every corner. Even after the most difficult tragedies, you’ve always got to be grateful for something good in your life, whether it’s your health, wealth, job, friends or family. If I could sum you up in two words – positively happy! Even at the end, you had a smile on your face. Everything was art to you, and you were born on Friday the 13th, for crying out loud!
You were a lover of all aspects of life, and yet, you were a fighter too, with the strength to overcome almost any battle. Unfortunately, time intervened and it just wasn’t meant for you to win this one. Time was against us, and God, I guess, decided you had learned enough on Earth to live a fulfilling life. I just wonder if God realises how impossible I feel it is for me to lead a fulfilling life without you anymore? If you were near me now, this is the part where you would smack me for sounding so ridiculous. But that’s just the way I feel. I have always believed artists perceive the world in a way that’s different to writers. Artists seem to thrive on spontaneity and keep their eyes open. Something catches their eye and are inspired, resulting in a piece of art for future generations to admire. Writers think a lot and keep their hearts open. They share their experiences after feeling strongly about something so that future generations can read their words on paper and enjoy it. Between all the wild rollercoasters you’ve brought me on, I think I could write a whole book on our friendship, Grace!
Now, I feel your time here was short. You were 17. Our friendship was brief – we had only known each other about a year and yet, that flying visit changed my life forever. I must apologise again, Grace, because I’m only going around in circles. I don’t mean for this letter to sound like a funeral eulogy. I’d like to pretend that’s not what I’m preparing for, but the sad fact is – I can’t believe you’re gone.
It’s those last couple of words that have been swooping around like vultures in my mind, picking at my brain since yesterday. I need some peace to gather my thoughts. Somehow I’ve managed to convince myself that going back to where it all happened is the best way to find tranquility.
As I see the swing, listen to the waves, and feel the soothing summer breeze, I am beginning to feel an inappropriate smile creeping onto my tear-stained face, toying with the emotions in my heart. I’m experiencing an uncomfortable chill washing over me, that seems to be punishing me for being happy. Happiness seems to be a crime at the moment. But this sudden coldness symbolises change. I’ve been thinking that maybe I should adopt your positivity.
In fact, I’m determined. I don’t want memories of you that will fade. I hope that your memory will last and live on for the rest of my life, continuing to inspire me.
You weren’t just a painter, you were also a painting. A wonderful creation, with various angles and emotions for me, as a writer, to think about. Grace – I couldn’t think of a more fitting name for such an unforgettable artist full of grace.
You were a never-ending rainbow, and I know, wherever you are, you are no doubt spreading your many colours everywhere, causing a mess only an artist could make.
I look at the swing. It’s empty, creaking in the summer air. I feel your presence, as if your ghost is happily swinging back and forth, slow and then fast….. I’m still terrified of my turn on the swing. Maybe I’ll sketch it or take a picture and think of you.
I move closer to the swing. There’s a nice little spot beneath it, in the sand. I don’t know what motives have driven me to this exact spot, but it’s perfect. I pick up a plastic spade that a child has left behind nearby. All the adults seem to believe this is the ghostly, isolated side of the beach. When their children wander over here, it’s not long before they pull them away again. So I think we’re alone now.
I’m beginning to dig. I dig until my hands feel as if they’re going to fall off. I feel it’s time to put this into the envelope and seal it. I’ll bury it here below our swing, at your final port of inspiration. And who knows? Maybe the next Grace and Laura in 50 years’ time will come across it in the sand and treasure it as a reminder for them to make the most of their friendship because time is the most mysterious thing I know. It travels at different speeds – faster with fun, and then slower with sorrow.
I miss you, Grace, even though I feel like you’re closer to me now more than ever.
Until we meet again,