I walk the well-worn path with hesitation; the last time I came out here I got somewhat lost. There are really no markings anywhere to let you know you are headed the right direction, and divisions in the path crop up randomly, vein-like and too natural looking to make an impression in my memory.
A few rocks and trees look familiar though, or perhaps I got lucky. Either way, the path finally explodes into the familiar cliff I am looking for. Nathanial greets me, tipping his hat and tossing his cigarette butt down, down, down to the sea.
I am grateful to take off my sweaty boots and sit with my feet dangling over the side.
The white rage of the sea froths and foams as its waves yield helplessly to the whims of the wind. The sea looks a bit like the sky: dark and murky, swirling about somewhat madly as if restless and looking for a fight. Nathanial speaks:
“The sea will surely never know silence, but will any of us? Perhaps silence is merely a theoretical phenomenon for all but those haunted by deafness--and even those sorry souls would have to speak of their own experience with quietude before I would dare to guess them immune to the cacophony of sound which forever blankets the world as we know it.
“As for the rest of us,” he continued, “we will never truly hear a single pause from the din of existence; even as the noises around us subside from time to time, the very beating of our hearts will throb in our chests and the rush of blood through our veins will echo in our ears as if it were a river before us. Perhaps only the dead will ever truly know silence.”
He pauses while I reflect on his lamentation.
“The song of the world is at times too beautiful to bear listening to,” he continues. “Surely this is why we choose to turn a deaf ear and wallow in our melancholy instead of allowing it to carry us away.
“Those who hear the tune are swept away by love, the hot and sticky passion that it is. It saturates everything like a summer rain that leaves you warm and dripping and soaked to the bone, grinning stupidly because the weather has caught you by surprise.
“For some of us, this rain never stops, nor are we ever to be found with an umbrella or a rain jacket.”
Nathanial pauses, withdraws a cigarette from his shirt pocket and takes a long, smoke-lathered sigh.
“Was my soul so heavy before it knew love?” he asked. “Was it so heavy before I was shackled to this glimpse of mortality? When I am finally dead in the ground will I know silence? Or will the murmur of life follow me, whispering dream-like into the shadows?
“Was my soul so heavy when I was just a boy, or did it grow fat and sickly only when burdened with the overwhelming joy of this magnificent passage through life?”
I came up with nothing to say. The waves alone permeated our silence; Nathanial was watching them too.
“As I behold the violence of the waves below me,” he said, “I am reminded that the beauty of life is shocking. It is at once comforting and horrifying, shaking me to the bone and breaking my heart as I laugh unabashedly to the sky and to no one and to everyone.”
Then he did laugh.
“What would I do if my soul were stronger?” he continued after his laughter subsided. “Would I be proud, or could I foster humility still? Who could I lean on, if not my weakness?
“There is some comfort in being so tired, and in being old before your time. With a soul so heavy, even the weight of the world seems a small burden to bear.
“My life has been so easy, but my struggle ironically profound. For this, I will always be grateful.”
He tosses his cigarette down, down, down to the sea.
“At times I think if I could bottle up my love and cast it out to the waves, I would; only loneliness has been a reliable companion on my journey. Without the burden of love, my sorrow could be complete. What wicked and tiresome trouble love creates for us all.”
He pauses and looks up to the sky. The clouds still swirl murkily above us.
“Ah, but what insipid and restless angst life would be filled with, if it were not for love,” he relented. “Without that stupefying haze, what would inspire our passions and distract us from our dull routines? What would carry us through our long days? What would fill us to the brim until we overflow with the bubbly giddiness life has inspired in all of us since we were only babes?”
As I survey the turbulent tides below me, it occurs to me that perhaps they are not so different, the sea and Nathanial: both of them caught up in a swirling, violent passion of murky brine--the sea with its salty waves and Nathanial with the unrelenting melee of love and sorrow, joy and heartache and blood. Perhaps neither of them will ever know silence.
“Sure is windy today,” I offered after a pause. Nathanial nodded his agreement.