Solemn Night

BY DR. AGONSON

“Mom wants you to come inside,” I tell my grandfather. He’s sitting on his little porch. It rests on the front yard right near the sidewalk. Grandfather likes to watch the ocean from here. Most afternoons he bundles himself up in a heavy coat, mumbles something we rarely make out, and heads to his seat. He doesn’t eat much anymore, but mom always has me call him in for dinner. He mostly comes.

“The wind’s changing,” he says.

I had been heading back inside, but I repented. Coming ‘round to the front of his bench, I sit beside him. I shiver—I’d not worn my coat—and grandpa undoes his scarf, wrapping it around my neck. It smells like him. I don’t like the smell, but I love him; I feel his warmth in it.

“She is beautiful,” he says. I look into his eyes. Glassy and dim, they reflect the view like faded mirrors. His eyes hold the sea.

“Yes grandpa,” I say, my eye caught by a seagull far out to sea. It seems to stand still in the air as it flaps against the wind. Rising and falling a little, like a buoy, it never seems to go forward or fall back. Like the sea, it rises and falls, and hanging onto this little moment in time, this little pause, we wait.

The day is ending, and the sun stands weary in the sky, his bright reflection waiting for him in the rippling ocean below, waiting to meet him with a kiss and bring forth solemn night.

I don’t know when I drifted off. I walked with my father’s father to the beach. It was a cold night, and the ocean raged as we approached. The seagulls called to us in song, and told us of the horizon far away. A ship was coming in, and I knew my dad was on it. A small boat, its bow driven into the sandy bank, its stern bobbing in the busy waves, waited.

Standing in the boat, clad in a wet, black raincoat, a man called my grandfather’s name. He wore a wide, drooping hat, and I could not see his face. I walked with my grandfather to the boat.

“I’ve not called your name,” he told me, pointing his palm forward like a crossing-guard. All at once, I was sitting on the bench, awake, my grandfather slumped over beside me. But I could still see the ship, ghostly and faint, her sheets full as she set her course to sail past the horizon.

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