The Outsider Ch. 31bycaligula97236©
Chapter 31 -- A sunset on the beach
Finally Mike recovered enough to move away from the grave, shake hands with Reverend Chandler, and tell his girlfriend that he was ready to leave. On their way out they drove through old neighborhood. He insisted on passing by his family's former home for the last time. The house was being demolished, with great care because its materials were loaded with toxic chemicals. Ruthie noticed that the front yard already was dug up and that one of the neighbor's trees had started to wilt.
They returned to Davenport. On their way back they passed an enormous billboard. It was 15 stories high and as long as a football field. The ubiquitous clown was featured, of course. The slogan read:
America is a Mega-Town nation!
The newest slogan...that pretty much said it all. The billboard was a new feature as well, because Mega-Town Associates had filed a court challenge to state laws restricting the size of billboards. Not letting corporations make billboards as large as they wanted was a violation of the First Amendment and of free speech. Of course the courts sided with Mega-Town, and now the company was celebrating by covering the US landscape with the largest billboards that had ever been built.
When they returned to Davenport, the couple briefly stepped into Mike's apartment to change out of their formal clothing. Ruthie took off her uncomfortable dress, hoping it would be a very long time before she would have to wear it again. She didn't see why she would...no formal events were coming up that she was aware of. It was warm enough for her to wear the red dress that Mike had bought her when they first started going out in October. How long ago that seemed, and yet it was only slightly more than half a year. She knew that the dress was not really appropriate for Mike's mood, but they did have to move on. Besides, it was getting hot and Ruthie was eager to enjoy the fresh air on her skin.
It was still early enough to drive to San Gregorio beach and enjoy a few hours of late-afternoon sunshine. Ruthie made the suggestion. Mike agreed, not really knowing what else to do. They got there and found a place to park. It had been crowded earlier on, but now people were just starting to leave. Mike and Ruthie walked down the steps, dropped off their clothes at one of the driftwood shelters, and walked out onto the shoreline. The tide was out and a wide, peaceful stretch of wet sand lay between them and the distant waves. Seagulls circled overhead and sandpipers scurried in front of the couple. A soft wind blew against their bare bodies, with just a hint of chilliness in it. Soon enough the sun would be low in the horizon, low enough to look at as it set.
They got to the shore's edge and felt the cold water washing around their feet. Mike took Ruthie in his arms. For a long time they looked out over the Pacific Ocean. Ruthie lifted up Mike's hand and sadly kissed it.
The waves are calling me. I belong out there, my body floating in that water, but that's gonna have to wait. I didn't want to have to wait around...I hate my life...I hate this existence...there's really no point in me staying alive...I don't belong on this planet, in this reality...for me there's no joy and there never will be. I know that more than ever now. But I can't leave, at least not yet.
Ruthie caressed Mike's hand. She was convinced that she did not love him, at least not the way she thought she was supposed to love a partner. The passion, the sexual desire, the joy that a person feels upon seeing their companion, was something Ruthie would never experience with Mike.
And yet, in her own way, she did love him, more than either of them could have imagined. Ruthie knew that whatever her faults, she was all he had, the only person in his life that gave it any purpose. Regardless of how she felt about herself, she would never take that purpose away from him. Their friendship had committed her to living a life that would not be for her, but for him. She promised herself that as long as he needed her, she would be there for him. Fifty days or fifty years...she would stay with Mike until he finally got tired of her. Then, finally, she could seek her own peace: she would follow the ocean's call and vanish into the surf.
Ruthie said nothing as Mike continued to hold her, but she kissed his hand again. The sun set as incoming waves continued to batter the rocks that lay at the northern edge of the beach. Her thoughts wandered and her imagination moved back and forth in time as she contemplated the huge stretch of water that lay in front of her.
That ocean is so vast...going nearly halfway around the world before there is any major body of land. And yet, even the Pacific Ocean will not last forever. Every year it is shrinking, every year a small fraction of its seabed is being swallowed by the subduction zone that runs along the entire west coast of the two Americas. Someday, in the very distant future, the Pacific Ocean will shrink to nothing, and then perhaps become a huge mountain range like the Himalayas as North America and Asia collide. Then the mountains will vanish, eroded away into a new ocean that does not yet exist. And the evidence the Pacific ever existed will have long since been erased from memory, even the fossil record obliterated by geological processes that lay hundreds of millions of years in the future.
Ruthie's thoughts jumped from the distant future to the distant past. The giant pterosaurs circled over the calm waters of her imagination. Those creatures were gone...which was a real shame...along with all kinds of other interesting animals...gone.
Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.
We are going too...thought Ruthie to herself...me, Mike, the United States, humanity...we'll all be gone soon enough. We all end up the same. In the end, we all go away.