For nearly a week now the character has wandered around my thoughts like an untethered spectre. The struggle of the tale that’s on the tip of my fingers, in my thoughts like the space from House of Leaves, there – but not.
I haven’t posted anything on here for nearly a week, deliberately so, as I’ve had time off from work and just wanted to relax. It was my intention to allow my mind to rest and decide on the writer I want to be. Are any writers genuinely happy with what they write?
The character lodged in my head we passed twice on the first day of our time away. It was a roaringly sweltering day and the stifling air had moments of reprieve as the occasional breeze flowed over the sea and up onto the beach. We were walking along the promenade looking for somewhere to settle into the heat.
The sections of stony beach were divided up neatly by wooden groynes, wide enough for a large family to spread out into, or a couple of smaller groups. Determined to find a section to ourselves we walked further and further along the coast, a large family at our heels. In the distance we saw a man standing next to a section of beach, wildly gesticulating, and pointing to a section with a solitary sunbather.
As we approached this man, wearing sandals and socks, a rag on his head, with an overstuffed plastic carrier bag by his feet, it was clear he was connected to the family behind us. The section he was pointing out was the only empty section we’d seen, a perfect spot to enjoy the sea and the sun, yet the family behind stopped short and chose a stretch already dotted with parasols. The man, defeated, passed us by and joined the group. Instead of using the spot he’d found, we decided to try a stretch of beach further down the coast, so turned around and walked back the way we’d come.
The fascination of this man’s relationship with the family struck me instantly – his actions and desperation felt palpable; loneliness seeped out of him like water from a sodden sponge. I had flashes of him in a flat, dunking a teabag into a cup, light seeping through the gap in brown curtains, a dinning room table in the kitchen with a solitary chair. In the corner of the room sat a television, video cassettes stacked up in a corner, with white handwritten labels.
We continued with our walk and after a couple of miles found an empty stretch of sand that hadn’t been tethered to the uniformity of the groynes. Perhaps the lack of uniformity and wildness of the stretch we found was too much to exist in on such a muggy day, or maybe it was just too far to walk.
My wife swam in the sea while I ran over what I’d seen in my mind – the man had a well-kept grey beard, but his hair was wild. He had a connection with the family, but not enough to wield authority, yet he was by far the oldest of the group. I felt sorry for the person, but didn’t know where the character wanted to go, what was he telling me had happened, was happening, will happen. A story was there, but under the blistering heat my mind was frazzled.
A few hours later, we left our spot and headed back to the car park. As the breeze picked up, we decided to extent our walk a little and carried on towards where we’d left the family setting up. They were the largest group we’d seen and everyone else in that section had packed up and had left them to it. From a distance we could see the children splashing and playing in the sea, but as we got closer the lonely man was sitting apart from the other adults.
They were chatting and laughing, glasses of wine in hand, but the lonely man was a few meters from them, taking photos of the children playing in the sea.
It feels like a story is there – it feels like it should write itself, but this character hasn’t explained himself to me. That’s how it always works – someone appears to me in real life or in my imagination, and that character tells me the story how they want it told, but this character won’t go away, but won’t tell me what he wants.
Perhaps you have an idea?
Perhaps you know his story…
Leave me a comment so I can finish the tale and move on…