I watched the sun set over Portsmouth Harbour. It was as though a child had chosen the far-fetched combination of fluorescent orange and neon pink before curling bright waves across the palest lilac sea. I sat on the ground at the front of a boat-house and marvelled at the extreme fantasy of it all. My mother had spent three – by all accounts, mischievous – teenage years here and with the thought of her, the vision’s meaning shifted. Half my age, yet had she felt as I did now, dreamt and wondered with this landscape and life ahead of her?
I had sat for ten minutes, mind free and wandering, colours before me deepening and blending as the sun took its dip in the horizon. A footstep to my right crunched stones and vanquished solitude. One glance and a figure hid behind a column a few metres away. Irritation stamped sharply on my sense of calm. Another look and the shape was a man, who moved around a small area and then hid again. I prepared to leave, wondered whether the world was back in balance. Had my gushing necessarily conjured an ominous encounter? The man appeared, smiled yet said with urgency, “Excuse me, can I go for a wee here?” The question confused; so polite yet so crude a request. “I’m from London,” I said. “People wee everywhere there”.
I turned back. The sun had almost fully set, the sky was peaches and plums. I looked for my now elusive sense of peace. Some minutes passed. The water lapped at the pebbles, a boat crossed the horizon. I wondered where it was going, where it had been and the mind aligned with the scene. I was thankful. Again, worries suspended, fears quietened. I let tears wet my cheeks. The heart must have been full of them. Then – crunch, crunch, crunch – from over my left shoulder.
“HELLO! ARE YOU WATCHING THE SUNSET? I’ve come to watch the sunset.” This new man then ignored both the sunset and my tears and spoke over my reply to ask, “Are you on your own?”