"What are you thinking?"
The question popped him out of his trance. The wide expanse of West Coast sand had hypnotized him the way only a collection of memories and dreams could. The rolling of Pacific waves during high tide reminded him of years wasted in the wrong parts of the world and the crashing water seemed to taunt him for seeking out calmer seas. His mind was born violently quiet, and it seemed that every part of the world knew it. A pity it had taken him so long to come to the same conclusion. Nature is nothing but progress through chaos, and he was trying very hard to live up to its example.
"Nothing," he finally responded. Not entirely untrue was the answer, for he could not recall a single word hidden in his mind. Merely emotion. Thought was sometimes a bane to him, and such a sometime was happening now. He hated having to be pragmatic, to make a decision based on logic and not on desire.
"Then what are you feeling?"
He laughed to himself. For a woman he hadn't known very long, practically speaking, she held a lot of insight into him. Then again, he found himself appreciating the opinions of strangers more and more, often over the opinions of people he'd known for years. There's something refreshing about listening to people who have no vested interest in something they're criticizing. Friends and family, with rare exception, usually try to soften any blow. But not him. He liked it blunt, so he gave it blunt. Made a lot of enemies that way, but he'd argue that his friends were better friends than anyone else ever had. The ones who were still around, anyway.
She smiled, knowing that such a vague response was also the dedicated truth. He smiled, too, at the brief realization that she would recognize his honesty when she heard it. She had no idea what she meant to him. In her mind, she was just a supportive friend who happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. In his, she was both a reason to stay and the motivation to move on. A past and future in a single moment about to be shattered by the requirements of the present.
"I'm in love with this place," he continued. "The now more than the here. But I'm in love with it."
Her smile disappeared, almost imperceptibly turning into a frown. She knew the stories. He wasn't doing what he wanted to do, nor was he living where he wanted to live. Life, as it does to most, interfered so cruelly with his dreams and almost awakened him from them entirely. When she had discovered him - or rather, when he had discovered her - he was a stagnant mess, making mistakes that he had already made. Worse, he had been preparing to make them again, and almost willingly. Complacency had almost killed him and who he wanted to be.
"Maybe you shouldn't fall in love with anything for a while," she said, scolding softly, recognizing that such a course of action would also deprive her of something she may have desired. "You need to keep moving. And forward."
He nodded. He hated being pragmatic. Logic was necessary, but it was boring. Chasing magic was all he really wanted to do.
"Let it go," she said, not entirely convinced that he should. She, too, was aware of her own desire to throw caution to the wind. "It'll be there when you get back."
"But will I?" he asked, in a voice that could not be clearly identified.
She didn't understand the question.