Ocean

An ocean lay before him. Not physical, but virtual: in all directions, he could make out the brilliant sparkle of sun upon crests of waves, birds gliding freely upon thermals. That wide-open horizon frightened him for the lack of any definite end or reality, but far more, it excited him, tantalizing him with that fervor for the unknown he’d wielded since childhood.

A wont to look back tempted him. He stared longingly towards the pier as he recalled the traits of these familiar shores he’d inhabited his whole life, contemplating the magnitude of no return. The job with steady income in a country that knew no war, a decent sum in retirement savings, a home with a wife who cooked warm meals and tidied his things the same familiar way each day. A stability in which he’d silently stagnated, unable to confide in anyone since his father’s passing, struggling internally to not be so childish as to be led by dreams and fancies and instead surrender himself to the gravity of what he had spent his life building: a life he did not care for, a life of predictability.

That spirit of adventure had been caned, rebuked, punished, and choked. Doggedly, it persisted, triumphant in defiance. The thought of crossing that ocean in a coffin did not bother him any more, the way one is no longer bothered by the creaking of a door. He had grown accustomed to the thought, and so when his good friend would visit and tap familiarly at his shoulder, he was no longer left in the throes of uncertainty. He would greet his friend, would follow diligently, and relish in the tales and poetry they wove like cloth of golden fleece.

Age made his legs brittle, his back weary, his face wrinkled. But with loyalty of habit, he returned every time to that sight. Like watching a painting, he would be lost in imagining the distant horizon limned by fiery sun, reflecting the fire that refused to go out inside him.

Then, like all days, he would turn, following the same path he’d etched out with age. It was not lack of courage that brought him back, but faith —

Faith that some fires do not go out in death, but burn only brighter as they reach towards the heavens and are at last freed from the stones of lies that encircled them in life.