from wave scars

'But there was no question of what to do about the survivors when they were on the beach. They simply came apart. Their faces, if any, misted over with a pain so great it left them no identity. They became glass, snow, driftwood. They wrapped their damaged limbs around themselves, and bled their own substance into the sand. In less than an hour, the beach was empty. The only marks on the sand were the long curved ridges left by the outgoing tide. I looked out towards the rocks; but there was no sign of the boat. Then I turned and followed Steven up the stone steps to the clifftop. It was getting light; I could just see the outlines of trees and distant buildings inland.
We walked back along the cliff path in silence. When we reached the edge of town, Steven paused. 'It's always like this,' he said. 'Every year. I need to come back. But it's always just the same.' His hair was matted with sweat, and he looked thinner than before. I wanted to say It's not your fault, but I couldn't find the words. Back at the guesthouse, Steven lay down and went to sleep, still fully dressed. We had to be out of the room by ten o'clock, but I let him sleep for a couple of hours while I sat and tried to understand. Perhaps it was remarkable, I thought, that a grown man should be so imprisoned by his childhood. But it was just as remarkable that someone carrying such a weight of guilt and terror could still have so much to give. I knew he'd come with me, if I had a similar trip to make.
And it happens all the time. Boats go down, cars crash, houses burn; and damaged people spill out into the road. The only way to go on is to realise that it is always the same. You have to hold onto the few who mean enough to you to bring out the healer. And sometimes the healer is very difficult to find.'

Taken from 'Wave scars' in The Earth Wire and Other Stories by Joel Lane. RIP. One of the finest short story writers I've read and a huge inspiration.