The planes are so uch a feature of the landscape that Addie seldom notices them. The same with the smoke from the chimneys at Poolbeg, the same with the car ferries lunking their way along the horizon towards Dun Laoghaire.The clouds and the seabirds and the sea itself. Addie takes no notice of any of these things. Shes so caught up in her own head, she doesnt notice anything else.
The beach is where she was born, pretty much.
She was five days old when they brought her home. She was carried out of the car in her mothers arms, a tiny bundle wrapped up in a purple angora blanket, a wool hat pulled down over her forehead and her ears. Her mother climbed the steps up to the front door, pausing at the top to turn back to face the sea.
Her father had the door open already. He had stepped into the hall and he was beckoning for her mother to follow. Come on in, woman, for Gods sake, he said. Youll freeze out there.
But her mother stood on the steps for another moment with Addie in her arms, gulping in the cold sea air. It was heaven after the sticky heat of the hospital and she couldnt get her fill of it. It never occurred to her that her newborn daughter too was drinking in that salty air, that she was pulling it down into her spongy little lungs. Some of it must have made its way right down into her soul.
Thats how Addie feels now. She feels as if the beach is a part of her. Its her special place, its probably whats keeping her sane. The beach is deserted at this hour of the morning, theres nobody around but herself and the little dog. The tide is out and the clouds are hanging low over the sand, you can almost feel the pressure of them on your head. The forecast is for rain, but theres no sign of it yet.
Addie walks straight for the waterline. Shes half a mile out and still the sea seems no closer. It must be a very low tide. There are some puddles now, more and more of them, so she doesnt go any farther. She doesnt want to get her feet wet. Its starting to get cold, and she really should be wearing her boots. But she doesnt, she prefers to wear her runners. That way she can feel the ridges of the sand through the soles of her shoes. It makes her feel solid, the sensation of the hard sand under her feet.
All her life Addie has had the feeling that theres a black cloud following her around. These days she feels like that cloud has finally caught up with her. The beach is the only place where she has the sense that she can outwalk it.
Out on the beach she can talk to herself. She can sing along to her iPod and no one can hear her. She can scream if she wants to and sometimes she does. She screams and then she laughs at herself for screaming. Out on the beach, she can think about all the things that have happened. She can sift them, backwards and forwards in her head. She can cry hot tears of self-pity. She feels guilty about crying in front of the dog, but afterwards she feels much better. She feels almost content.
The dog is scrabbling in the sand for something that isnt there. Shes shoveling wet sand with her front paws, tossing it back between her hind legs. A big pile is building up behind her and her whole underbelly is filthy, but she doesnt seem to notice. Addie stands there and watches the dog working away at her pointless task. Sure let her at it, she thinks, isnt she happy.
Addie throws her head back and looks up at the sky. Shes studying it, as if shes looking for something up there. It occurs to her that shed love to travel out into space, shed love to look down at the world from out there. If she could see the world from the outside, maybe then shed be able to gain a bit of perspective on her situation. She turns and faces back towards the shore. Even from here, shes able to pick out the house. Its the putty-colored one in the middle of a terrace of smudgy pastels. Three large windows looking out over the sea, two upstairs, one down.
Excerpted from This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon. Copyright © 2012 by Kathleen MacMahon. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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