She's recovering from some injuries so she walks slowly. She's always going on about wanting to run again, like me...but I don't know if that will happen.
She's healing from a broken heart as well. She sighs a lot during our walks. My mom used to sigh all of the time, but hers came from a place of dramatic resignation. My friend sighs to release her cares, her sorrows, to breathe deeply once again. Her sighs don't bother me.
She fell for this man hard. He brought so much light into her sad, little existence that when he left, her life felt even bleaker than before. "Why me? He knew the shape I was in. Why does it always turn out the same way, where I get hurt?"
This man left her life incrementally, with little fanfare. He eventually stopped responding to her. She felt used, stupid.
I try to explain to her that he had his own problems.
That doesn't stop the pain, she tells me.
Yes, but it's better to understand that its nothing personal, I tell her. It's better to celebrate that love entered your life at all. He was a blessing overall. You know that.
She nods in halfhearted agreement and sighs.
After a moment, she turns to me and asks in a childlike voice, "I'm a blessing too, aren't I?"
Her question stops me in my tracks. I turn her to face me.
"I think you are."
Sometimes I want to send her flowers on his behalf, so she believes in kind acts and romance again. Or write her a warm, heartfelt letter, signed by him. Just to take the sting out a little. I wouldn't of course. I wouldn't dupe her like that. It's just hard seeing her this way. I've known her so long. When she hurts, I hurt.
At some point of our walk, we usually sit down on the beach, close our eyes and meditate for a while. I can feel her next to me, tense and struggling, trying to tame her stormy thoughts.
Sometimes, I peek over at her: brow furrowed, shoulders tight. I fantasize about kissing her on the lips during one of those taut moments. It seems that's all she really needs, that magical fairy tale kiss to wake her up, to make her feel safe and alive again.
Instead she begins to cry. I put my hands on her back and her body melted in response. Human touch. I found myself crying with her. No one should have to fight hard for "inner peace," you know?
"Just breathe. Be present. The answer is right here, I promise. You don't have to try so hard for it."
We both closed our eyes again and grabbed what little nirvana we could find. And after a few moments, we were breathing together, in sync with one another, in sync with the world. For a few moments, we simply existed and let go of all the silly emotions.
Her days at the beach are numbered. She's leaving the island soon. She's unhappy here and needs to leave. She won't tell me where. It's a "secret." I can see through her ruse; she's not sure where she's going next and feels self-conscious about it.
"What will I do without our walks?"
Again, I have no answers. And luckily, I don't have to. Our walks, I hope, will heal her from the outside in. The universe will fix her, with its generous sunlight and sparkling seas and wild winds. Environmental soul repair.
And I think my listening helps as well. It's amazing how transformative it is when someone simply validates your feelings, isn't it? When someone is genuinely open to you, no matter what fractured state you're in? No one shoulders her disappointment and anger and hurt like me. I accept all of her broken pieces. She needs me and I'm happy to spend some time with her.
"I worry too much damage has been done," she says. "That I can't find my way home."
But I think she may. Someday. Somewhere.
"Just keep walking."