Floating with no responsibilities, he thought as he looked up at the clouds drifting lazily by, that is true freedom. He was lying on a warm beach. His fishing rod was pegged next to him with its line reaching out into the calm waters.
But this did not last forever.
He grew older and was drafted into the army. The war was terrible, but he survived it and came home to a university education. Years later, crossing the threshold of a quarter century he moved into the workforce. Initially, it was the large American automotive company, but as things got offshored, he moved into other industrial businesses. Each new industrial business was far flung, and he travelled a lot in those days. He met his wife during those travels, and she convinced him to move to New York with her.
The Big Apple roared with noise and activity, and he was pulled into the investment banking and stock market hype of those boom years. Millions exchanged hands as he screamed out buys and sells and orders and calls on the trading floor on Wall Street.
Children appeared in his life. It was then a mix of nappies, school, lifts and then friends, while he was juggling work and meetings and panic and money. And, somewhere along this, he and his wife forgot each other.
He woke up one morning to find his wife sitting in the chair next to the bed and staring at him.
They agreed to divorce the moment the children moved out, which they did relatively quickly as school ended and their university careers started. The lawyers seemed quite worried about who wanted the apartment in New York, but became visibly relieved when he said that she could take it.
He also wrote out a cheque of an eye-watering quantity and gave it to her. She did not look him in the eye as they said goodbye.
And then she left.
And so did he.
And, at sixty-three years old he found himself on a beach in the middle of the work week. Somewhere the markets were open and people were panicking. Somewhere cars were being made, and children being fetched and fed. Somewhere wives were being looked after, and books being studied. Somewhere there was noise and activity, traffic and taxes, work and study…
But not here.
He flicked his arm and the reel made a zooming sound as the line dragged by the sinker flew out to sea. He then sat down, pegging the fishing rod into the sand next to him. Lying back in the sand, he looked up. Clouds were drifting lazily by in the blue sky above.
He thought he saw what looked like a dragon eating its own tail in one of the clouds, and smiled. He thought he understood the humour here and closed his eyes, sighing.