The view from The Doc o’ the Bay soothed me even on my most depressed days.
From my table, I watched the grey waves carry their frothy, white tops and unfurl on the sand. I’d watch the gulls totter across the pier, my coffee warming my hands, and suddenly things weren’t so bad. Not good, but liveable.
Across the café, Jim read his newspaper, his toast piled to his left. Catrina dashed around behind the counter, filling mugs and bowls, before yelling at her son, Bobby, to deliver them to tables.
One Saturday morning, I was busy watching a particularly fluffy cloud drifting through the sky. Jim’s newspaper had informed me of the ‘hazardous’ downpour heading toward the south coast, but the sky looked perfectly content to me.
The silver bell above the door tinkled and in came a girl. Her hair was black and her cheeks pale. She had a look in her eyes that I recognised- a look of sadness. I watched her all morning, fiddling with the cuff of her purple, polka dot blouse. Occasionally she nibbled at her sandwich, but for the most part, it remained untouched. Like me, she seemed to find a calmness in the cadence of the sea.
Every Saturday morning she returned to The Doc o’ the Bay. Sometimes she wore a pink polka dot blouse. Sometimes, she wore the orange one with the heart shaped buttons. Once, she wore green polka dots under dungarees- that was a good day. I tried to imagine her name. Emily? Lucy? Nothing suited her, so I decided to call her Dot.
My weeks were filled with miseries, but I knew that come Saturday, she would be there, gazing at the pier. Jim would be shaking his head as he scanned his newspaper. Catrina would butter bread and spoon sugar into tea, and Bobby would wait on tables. But it was Dot who I longed to see.
I dreamt of Dot and I sitting together- watching the tide wade in, as the clouds sailed past the window. Tomorrow I shall say hello to her, I thought. But I never did. I kept waiting for a spur of confidence to send me over to where she sat, to finally introduce myself. Each time, I swore tomorrow. Tomorrow will be the day.
Then one Saturday I waited but Dot never came. The weekends went by but she never returned. Her spot in the window, where her melancholy eyes gazed at the pier, remained empty. I began to sit in the café until nightfall- could she have changed her schedule? I wondered. One lonely night I even thought I saw her out of the window, standing on the pier. I turned my head and saw a flash of polka dots, but in just one blink, they were gone.
The following weekend I returned to the café. Jim was shaking his head at the front page of his newspaper. When he opened it up I read the letters, printed black and bold:
Body of local girl found after she jumped from pier.
Underneath was a photo of a girl in a polka dot blouse, smiling at me from across the café.
‘Did you know her?’ said Jim over the top of the paper.
I shook my head. ‘No,’ I said.