In many conversations with aspiring novelists, they tell me that they wish they could be as inspired and motivated as I am. They wish those little voices in their heads would talk to them every day, pushing them to complete book number one. I’ve written four novels in three years. If I only wrote when I was inspired or motivated, I’d still be working on the first.
You see, the truth is that writing novels is a grind. Sometimes I believe it’s more about discipline than talent. Butt in chair; that’s the mantra. I love finishing a book – I like writing it.
Then I have a moment as I had on my last vacation. I became an accidental witness to something unexpectedly profound. The moment becomes a child, throwing a tantrum, banging in my head until I turn an experience into a story. There are few things in my life that give me more joy than having the ability to take you with me, share the moment, and show you something beautiful. This is when I love to write:
I turned my beach chair to face the late afternoon sun after a long, skin-pruning swim. With salt on my lips and the bay breeze cooling my reddening skin, I saw them crest the wooden planks over the dune. Their floppy hats were the first to rise over the sand. Huge sunglasses over weathered faces came next. They were moving slowly, taking care with each step. When they made it to the stairs leading down, she stopped to rest. He was carrying everything.
Two beach chairs, two shoulder bags, a cooler, and her. One of her arms was wrapped around his, with the other reaching over, gripping his wrist. She clung to him as they stared down the impossible stairs. Even at that distance I could see her taking deep breaths, preparing to be brave. He said something to her and they both took a step down.
It took her several minutes to descend stairs that took me a few seconds to conquer. I watched as she labored with each step under unstable legs, wobbling down to the next obstacle. He was strong and sure – holding – encouraging her as a father would an infant learning to walk. When they reached the bottom, she needed to rest again.
I’m a writer. I know this because I believe I see things differently than most. I think differently than most. I don’t live solely in the present. I live in the past and the future as well. It’s why I wasn’t thinking about the stairs. I was thinking about his life with her. How it must be a grind. How it must have been a grind yesterday and how it will be tomorrow.
I thought about his life, waking up every morning, knowing he’d have to take care of her before he did anything for himself. Helping her walk to the bathroom, to the kitchen, and everywhere she needed to go. He’d have to help her dress, cook her breakfast, clean up after, and prepare for the next move. I imagined that she needed him for everything. When I saw his face after the journey down, there was no smile. There was only purpose. Take care of her.
She stood idly by and watched as he set up the chairs, arranged the contents of the bags, put lotion on her shoulders, and handed her a bottle of water from the cooler. He took her arm, guiding her down to the chair, holding her bottle as she adjusted in the sand. After she was settled, he darted for the water.
I’m guessing he was in his early seventies, but he moved like a man half his age. As he passed a few feet by me with speed, I saw a slight smile. In my mind, I saw him free from having to take care of her for just a moment. I bet those moments were few and far between. I saw a burden lifted off his shoulders as he dove into the surf. He was frolicking like a child.
Turning to see her, sitting far up the beach alone in her chair, I could sense she was thinking about the days when she could be with him in the water. Playing, enjoying, and feeling as she did when she was younger, stronger. I felt sorry for them. His was a life of servitude. Hers was a life of memories of better days. I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was just letting her rest.
He bounced out of the water, heading straight for her. His slight smile was beaming as he yelled up that the water was perfect and the current was weak. I believe they were there at that time of day for a reason. The beach was all but deserted, the tide was at ebb, and the water was calm. Pulling her up from her chair, wrapping his arm around her waist, he flew her down to the surf.
It was low tide, and they had to walk a fair distance in the shallow water before it rose above her waist. Still holding hands, they turned to face each other. After smiles and a few kisses, he let go.
She glided with grace into the cool blue like a water bug. Her restrictions on land didn’t apply when she was in the bay. She swam in circles around him. I could hear their murmured voices, but the laughter was loud and clear. She’d dive down, pinching his legs as if she were a crab, causing him to yelp and giggle like a schoolboy. Popping up beside him, she’d wrap her arms around his neck, kiss him a few more times, and then drift away. He never took his eyes off of her, giving her the space she needed to feel free again. But he remained vigilant if she needed him.
After what seemed like an hour of playing, they came together as one mass, lowering so it was only their shoulders above the water. Their faces were just a few inches apart as they danced in the bay. They showed me that magic isn’t elusive. You can create it anytime you want.
With the sun lowering, I noticed I was the only person within a hundred yards of them down either side of the beach. I decided it was time for me to go. In a silly gesture, I wanted them to have it all to themselves.
When I reached the top of the dune, I turned to watch them for a moment longer. They were oblivious to anything except each other. They bobbed and twirled, laughed and kissed without a care in the world. He wasn’t holding on to her because he had to. He was holding on to her because he wanted to.
I was ignorant for feeling sorry for them. They probably were feeling sorry for me, sitting alone in the sand with only one chair. But they would be wrong as well. If I hadn’t had been sitting there, I wouldn’t have seen what love looks like.
Are you sitting there with me? Can you see them?
for further information on E.E. Borton or to purchase one of his novels, please visit www.eeborton.com