The man wandered aimlessly down the late-afternoon beach. Even in peak season, this was a fairly remote place on the North Shore of Lake Superior. But now that it was mid-September, whatever few people that would have been here had gone. He had the place entirely to himself.
He was far from home, far from everyone he knew. He had been wandering like this for a month, driving thousands of miles around Northern Ontario and New England. Visiting family and friends, getting in the car and driving away again. He’d occasionally stop in places to hike or sight-see, like he was doing now. But there was no set pattern.
Normally, this would have been considered a great vacation trip. But this time it was different.
For the man was tired. Emotionally, mentally, and physically tired. This wasn’t just a two-week break from work. He was taking a break from LIFE, and needed to figure things out. For it hadn’t been an easy year.
It had started 16 months earlier. Work had been getting toxic. He had been in the process of interviewing to change jobs, when right in the middle of all it all, he had gotten the Phone Call.
The life-changing Phone Call from Mom.
Can you come over? Your father didn’t come down for breakfast this morning. I went to go get him, and it seems like, um…well…he didn’t wake up.
Goddamit. He had just spoken to his father the night before. Dad had shot a 76 on the golf course, ate supper and had gone to bed. And then he had died in his sleep, just like that.
Fast forward 10 days later, after the funeral. Within less than an hour back at the office, with the man still trying to figure out how to deal with his grief, they had come up to him, and had started putting work demands on him right away.
I’m sorry about your dad…But the mechanics are coming down after break to fix the fan, so can you come over and bring the work permit?….Thaaaanks, that would GREAT.
Work continued to escalate from that point on. For months on end, they pushed him hard. Some days, he not only missed lunch, but he literally couldn’t even find the time to use the bathroom.
The mental harassment didn’t help. The tight-lipped supervisors would barely make eye contact with him, and only spoke to him when absolutely required. They angrily knew he wanted to transfer out of their group, and their resentment was made abundantly clear.
Yet transfer he did. He was soon hired by another department more suited to his training and background. Unfortunately this hiatus lasted for a few months because that second job became even more toxic. They had stuck him with a dysfunctional mentor who already had a terrible reputation for being extremely difficult to work with.
More mental abuse and more harassment for another 12 months. His health had started to unravel. Things had gotten to the point that he’d bolt awake at 3:00 AM and feel an imaginary thumb pressing into his chest. That’s when he decided it was time for a change. He got a note from the doctor, and took a month-long Time-Out from work.
This is how he’d ended up on this deserted beach in off-season. Wandering around aimlessly searching for something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
He sat down on the sand, watching distant horizon of the huge lake. Lake Superior seemed infinite.
At least HERE, he thought, it’s pure. And least HERE, in Nature, there’s beauty and truth, far away from all the crap back home in the city.
And it really was beautiful. It gave him a lump in his throat.
He thought what he had gone through the past year. He felt like he had been yelled at and slapped across the face.
Like a small child, hot tears flowed down his cheeks and he wiped them away with the heel of his hand.
God, I’m so tired, he thought.
Yet the tears did not stop They kept coming.
He remembered the dark lonely rental house he had to go back to after the funeral, in a town hundreds of miles away from everyone he was close to. He remembered the venom and silent treatment he’d received at work.
He remembered the pukey-nauseous stress feeling in his stomach, and having to leave the building to go outside and scream. He remembered almost breaking down and crying in front of the company nurse.
He especially remembered sitting at the bed and stroking his father’s hair the day he had died. It had happened so quickly, Dad was still warm, and appeared to be sleeping as if nothing had happened. That alone had probably been the most difficult thing of all.
At that point, the dam started to overflow. The sobs become more frequent.
All these bad emotions had been brewing within him for a long time, yet there had been no outlet. But there was something about today, something about the yellow-white sun reflecting sparkling diamonds off the pristine water that was bringing everything to the surface.
At that moment, something told him:
It’s all right. Go ahead, it’s all right.
And he let go.
In a sudden avalanche of emotion, he cried like he had never cried before.
Wave after wave of emotion crashed over him. Rocking back and forth where he sat, he wailed and screamed at the top of his lungs. With no one there to hear him, he let loose all his anger, his grief, his sadness and his hurt.
His howls reverberated among the trees and sand and bedrock. All the inner demons and poisons were leaving, rising up into the brilliant azure sky, to disperse and evaporate into harmless hot air.
How long he cried, he didn’t know. It went on and on, until there was nothing left to cry about.
Eventually, his tears subsided. He walked back to his car, emotionally and physically spent, like he had just run ten miles.
But for the first time in recent memory, he felt good. He felt cleansed.
He had come here searching for something, and he had found it.
He had found peace.