Beachfront Apparition

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JULY 1987

In the summer of 1987 when I was 27, I left my friend’s beach house in Gloucester, MA, early in the morning during a rainstorm for a solitary walk on the beach. When I had walked past all the beach houses on my right to an area of sand dunes and marsh grass, out of this area came a man in yellow rain gear looking and walking toward the waves, perpendicular to my course. As I got closer, I saw he was older with a grey beard, and that his rain gear was vintage Mackintosh. He looked like some guy on a fish sticks package. I was very into vintage clothing in those days, so I thought I would ask him where he’d found it . Closer, I saw a look of concern on his face and that his gaze was fixed on the horizon to my right — except there WAS no horizon because we were in the midst of a heavy rainstorm. I decided to merely compliment him on the rain gear. When I was three feet from him, I saw all the broken capillaries on his skin, as if he drank, and that his eyes were STILL fixated on that not-there horizon, clearly upset though there was nothing to see, so as I passed just behind him I said merely, “How’s it going?”

He neither looked at me nor replied. When I had walked a few more steps, I thought, “What is he — too cool to say hi when we’re the only two on this beach?!” I turned to look with resentment, but he was not there. I tried to figure out — could he have run all the way down to the waves? Was he trying to drown himself, hence the anguish? Baffled, I watched for his Macintosh hat to surface, and when it didn’t, with my brain scrambling for an explanation, I thought: “ghost.” What nonsense, right? I turned around to find his tracks in the wet sand. Mine were the only set of tracks on that beach.

Submitted by Louisa P