I couldn't recall how I got here but this town felt as much like home as anything I can remember. The water lapped in and out against the rocky shore simple and consistent like days into years. Perhaps that's why I kept coming back to this wharf, even on days like this when the occasional flake of snow flittered down through the air to touch the ground and disappear.
The bench I sat on was cold and spoke of ages of rain, weathered to raw and curling patterns of cracks among gray. There was nothing here but the sound of the ocean and the breeze that held my face like an old love tender yet painful in the biting cold. I sat and watched the gray sky trying to remember old lives and breathed simply recalling bits and pieces of childhood, running wild through the fields, alone with my imagination. After a glimpse I'd lose it and my mind would once again wander to how I had come to this pier, in this sleepy coastal town that felt so damn familiar but still seemed so foreign. I was cogent in the moment but my memory of the actions that had led me here were lost. I had the feeling that I'd had enough and should get up and go home but I couldn't remember where home was. Instead I just sat looking out to the sea and waited for a clue, some fleeting memory that could tell me where I belonged.
Perhaps I had drifted out again but there was suddenness that awoke me as I heard a faint, "Hi"from behind me. I looked up and a beautiful young woman rounded the bench and sat beside me.
"You're too young for me dear, I'm an old man." I said.
She chuckled and touched my arm and we were quiet as we looked out at the ocean.
"Tell me a story." She said.
I thought for a moment and began to tell the girl the pieces I could remember about meeting my wife. "Brown hair, blue eyes, beautiful in the way a bird gliding through the air is beautiful, she looked like you when we first met," I said.
She smiled. I thought about how much I missed the woman and why I hadn't seen her in so many years but struggled to recall where she had gone or what had happened to her.
"During the war," she said.
"Yes," I said quietly, "If I recall correctly." I proceeded to tell of how we had met in a bar on one of the small islands and had spent the night together when I got the call that the harbor had been attacked and was ordered to report that evening. It seemed that that was one detail that had not been lost to me as so many others had. When I finished, quiet came again and the girl and I sat. The ocean curled and crashed and tore into shore pulling pebbles back with it as it receded.
My eyes danced watching the flight of a bird and I realized there was a young woman sitting beside me, I smiled coyly and she smiled back.
"Let's go." she said.
"Oh, where are we going?" I said.
"Home" she said. I marveled at how much she looked like my wife. I told her this and she smiled.
"I miss you daddy," she said. I was confused so I said nothing and opted for the smile. She held my hand as we stood up and walked back toward town. This relaxed me some but I wondered where she was taking me. As we neared the street there was a bus with empirical letters emblazoned across it. Charleston Alzheimer's Home.
I panicked for a moment then caught a glimpse of a bird gliding through the sky and was reminded of my wife, we had met during the war.