Paint All My Days Grey by Emma Robertson

I know the sea should be blue; intellectually I know this, of course I do. Yet as I sit and watch each salty, foamy roll of seawater build to its crescendo before fizzling out into sherbet-tipped ripples along the shoreline, all I can see is grey.

The rhythmical crashing and burning of the waves is mesmeric, even in my monochrome world. The perpetual motion with its constant peaks and troughs, each wave gaining momentum and soaring for merely a moment before dissipating seems both hopeful and pointless; all of that potential going nowhere.

The symbolism of this handful of grey sand trickling away between my fingers is so trite it offends me. I get it, trust me; time is a-ticking. But everything has become a metaphor for life since I’ve been living more and more in my head.

I watch the remaining grains escape my grasp as Lin returns with two pots of slate-coloured gelato. “Cherry or Pistachio?” she offers. I accept the nearest one and nod my thanks. It tastes of nothing so I’m still not sure which one I have.

We eat in silence, Lin stretched out on her charcoal beach towel and me, hunched with my knees up to my chest, hypnotised by the tidal dance in front of me. I should try harder for Lin’s sake, she has more than earned her best friend stripes these past few weeks, but she doesn’t pressure me to talk about it.

How can I tell the oldest story in the book without it sounding like a cliché? I understand now why soap operas and bad novels rely on the same familiar tropes – these scenes are being played out in homes up and down the country, around the world even, every day of the year. It was breakup bingo (“It’s not you, it’s me – thirty-three!”) and I had my eyes down for a full house.

What are you supposed to do when the person you trust most decides that actually, if you don’t mind, they’d prefer their life without you in it? When someone has seen the very bones of you and then politely but firmly said no thank you, what do you do then? How can a person ever recover from bonding their soul with another human, only for that person to become a stranger overnight?

I shiver, despite the silver sunshine beating down on me. All that time wasted, investing in a future that’s been taken away without my consent. What am I supposed to do now?

“Are you cold?” Lin notices the goosebumps on my colourless arms and, to her credit, doesn’t point out that it’s thirty degrees in the shade, instead she wraps her taupe sarong around my shoulders without saying another word.

I give her an approximation of a smile and return my attention to the rolling waves, preparing to wait until I can see blue once again.

Emma Robertson is a dance tutor and writer from London, UK. Her words have recently featured in Sledgehammer, The Drabble, Lunate and Funny Pearls. In 2021 she was featured in a number of anthologies and longlisted by Cranked Anvil and Furious Fiction. Website: Twitter: @emmadancetrain