Nicholas sat on the large boulders that separated the tree line and the shore. Bowing his head and closing his eyes, he focused intently on the sound of the waves crashing and running up the sandbar. Loud, then hushed. Harsh, then soft. Then loud again.
Pushing all other thoughts aside, he focused on his breathing, matching it with the rhythm of the waves.
He acclimated to their pulse, until he felt like even his heartbeat was in sync with their music. Every evening it was new. He had never noticed that before, the subtle differences in their nightly symphonies.
Then he opened his eyes and ran his bow across the strings of his violin. He joined in the song, his music filling the air, following the ocean’s lead.
Emily had loved the water, the waves. And she had loved his violin. He wished she could hear it now, that she could be here.
When he played for the ocean, she felt close. No longer just a memory, but present.
And so he played his violin in the last rays of the sun, wishing the day well. As the dusk enveloped him, he closed his eyes once more and held one last note, letting the wind carry it out over the waves to the horizon. Then he fell silent and let several minutes pass, listening to the water once again.
The sky was almost dark when he opened his eyes. He turned to pack up his violin, but jumped when he saw the silhouette of someone sitting in the rocks a little ways down from him. He squinted, trying to make out the form. After several moments, he saw the figure rise and walk away.
It was a woman.
He continued putting his violin away, and when he looked up again, she was gone.
He sat at his dining room table, looking down at the notebook. It was a cheap, ninety-nine cents thing that he had picked up from Atzinger’s. Every night he wrote out three questions. He was told this would be helpful. Told to make this a priority. But he felt like this was only ever at most re-arranging furniture in his overcrowded mind, not cleaning anything up.
This is shit.
But he still did it. He had nothing else to try.
The first question stared back at him, bold against the empty page.
One thing that I was grateful for today
He sighed, then picked the pen up.
The sun was out.
One thing I want to change.
He hated this. Probably one more week and he would burn out of this.
Skipped breakfast – should eat breakfast.
One thing I was able to accept today.
Had there been anything he accepted? Did it even matter? The day came and went regardless of what he accepted about it. He sat back in his chair and looked around the room, his eyes resting on her piano.
The black, baby grand was a fixture in the dining room. He longed to hear her play again. They used to play together, her on piano and him standing next to her with his violin.
He couldn’t bear to stand next to the piano anymore, its bench empty.
The wall next to it was empty now too. He had left the nails in when he took the frame down, inadvertently making it look extra bare. Now every time he saw that spot, the wall seemed to announce its emptiness: Something used to be here.
It was a painting of her – a friend had done it for them. She was dancing, and the painting had captured all the vitality of her spirit and the motion of her body. It had captured her, more than any of the photographs he had.
He couldn’t look at that right now.
She wasn’t alive.
One thing I was able to accept today.
He tapped the pen on the paper a couple times, then wrote an answer.
He liked that answer. That worked, however you took it.
Standing up, he walked out of the dining room and turned the light off. The rest of the house was dark, but he didn’t mind. He knew where things were. He didn’t need to see. He didn’t want to see. He walked into the living room, felt the edge of the couch and then reached over to the end table feelling for the remote. He found it, and then turned the TV on.
A familiar show. Something to have on in the background. Some noise.
The light from the television dimly lit the rest of the room. He picked up the glass he left on the table from the night before, opened the bourbon bottle that was also beside the couch, and poured himself a drink. He tipped it back, finished it all, then poured himself another to nurse.