She saw him the second day after her accidental posting to a broken lighthouse far up the Skeleton Coast. She watched him wander along the edge of the water, immune to the cutting wind and blowing sand, bending every few minutes to pick up what she thought at first might be sea shells but later, after she knew him better, learned were pieces of glass.
It took three weeks before she tried to speak with him. People had disappointed her so she had taught herself to be wary. Besides, she didn’t want to make the commitment of words if she was on her way elsewhere, which she suspected. Someone would realise soon there was no need for her to watch a broken lighthouse. At three weeks, she realised that was not going to happen. She was here to stay, she thought with relief.
That part of Namibia has a population density of about two people every 20 sq km, the two in this case were him and her. She knew why she was here at the edge of the mighty Namib and the wild Atlantic; she wondered what brought him to the place.
Her days were simple and routine; the way she liked. She woke to tea and bread she baked twice a week. She climbed the lighthouse to see if she could see anything of concern. Though she knew if she did there’d be little help she could offer, she still received a monthly salary from the government and felt she must make an effort. Besides, she liked it up there. The howling wind beat against the glass as she viewed the world from a god-like perspective. The Atlantic along this coast was one of death and destruction, drama and demise. To crash here and survive was futile with only the wide expanse of desert in front of you. A history littered with sadness was one she revelled in.
Nearing lunch, she liked to climb down, and if the weather was right, take a long walk along the beach. This is how she found him that day, sitting in a small hollow surrounded by rocks washing his coloured pieces of glass. “Hello,” she shouted above the roar of the surf.
He was as untamed looking as the ocean, as the desert. His hair long and matted like the beard that poured down his chest. He wore little in the way of clothing, something that might have been trousers were all that covered him and then not very well. His skin was black and criss-crossed with deep wrinkles speaking of a life spent with nature. “Hello,” he said in a voice not often used. He was neither surprised nor interested in her and went back to his pieces of sea moulded glass.
“I live in the lighthouse.”
The wind was picking up and sand was hitting her bare skin like tiny bullets. She wanted to go, but thought it better to firm up their connection since they were neighbours of a sort. “Perhaps you’d like to come up to the lighthouse for lunch.”
He gathered his glass, put it in the leather satchel that hung from his shoulder, and stood up, saying nothing. She turned to walk, glancing only once behind to be sure he followed. At the house, she quickly made sandwiches and asked, “Shall we eat at the top?”
When he saw the view, he set the satchel down, and rushed to the window. She put things out on the small table and waited. Minutes passed then he turned. “It’s very nice.”
That’s how it started. It was a slow, drop by drop, kind of movement to closeness. In the sea-salty air with the desert calling, they began to hear each other without words, to know each other without knowledge set down in personal histories. They started from the present and worked forward.
She never found out from where he came, but she did see his beautiful stained glass paintings made from travelled ancient bits set free from their original objects and then joined together with their own kind producing a resonance that she could not help but accept onto herself. They told her more about him than any words he could have strung together might.
He never unearthed all the cruelty she suffered to make her wary of human contact and relieved at being forgotten. Her first sly, tentative attempts at touching taught him all he needed to know.
They just stepped forward, two souls of a kind, and began.