Starting off in the distance, where the gelatinous ocean rose in spots and dipped in others, waves rolled. Each following another as it finally dispersed itself into the fine sandy shore. One wave followed another but each grew again in the same place. It was impossible to follow one and not feel it also somehow slipped back to where it started–rolling like stripes on an old barbershop pole.
She sat on her towel, partially reclining against her elbows. The paperback du jour (holding the misfortunes of an Indian orphan) rested patiently by her side. She’d read a quarter of it before inserting her bookmark, a fading taxi receipt. The sun beamed beautifully but not too hot. She chose not to go into the water. Even though she’d taken a dip before reading, she needed to stare a bit longer. Ocean air floated through her nostrils, surrounding her thoughts with particles of all that floated on the waves.
Sitting before the waves, she temporarily escaped her once beloved city, where people battered one another, vying for the most damaging words and protective positions. She focused again on the distance, exhaling a curlicue of breath. She left the breath to gather with other particles, which floated or submerged themselves in the divine varnish of blue eternity. And the city was gone. Her shoulders relaxed, sinking her maple neck deeper between their hammocked edges. The waves continued.
Last month she thought she loved her fiancé. This month his self-indulgent note confessing fear of the future was the last remnant she’d seen of him. After three years of adjusting to pink anarchy, weightlessness, and synchronized hearts, everything crashed and unravelled the instant he left. One day she was party to vibrant people and scenes, which now pressed around her in charred relief. The future she thought would come, vanished, so that she lived blindly into it. Still, sunshine reassured her, warming her cheeks before nostalgic tears could condense. She sat up, hugging her folded knees, and continued to watch the ocean.
Walking West along the beach, a man wearing a blue and white striped swim suit, stood in the foam. His feet chilled in the water thankful to be privileged and out of the unbearable heat. He watched the water curve around subtle sand waves. It flowed at a steady pace but glided back to its origin unevenly because of the terrain. Between watery sand and sun-dried sand, the waves improvised their line of rhythm. He looked upward, past the caramel sand, to the spread of people on the beach. Daydreaming, he wished he’d meet-
The vision of a woman resting on her elbows; she looked steadily toward the distance.
Walking some more, he considered her. Her story came effortlessely. She was by herself but shouldn’t be. She was only recently by herself, and melancholy. Was that her story? Actually, what the hell was he doing here? Why’d she have to recently be a loner? Why shouldn’t she be? Her, with that book at her side, he reflected, and not the smallest trace of interest in her eyes for anything taking place on the beach. Still, her blond hair fluttered feral in the salty breeze.
Reaching around to scratch his sweaty back, he hoped against sunburn. Some people happily holiday with nobody and nothing but a book. In her place, he’d be looking for adventure. The book would only be what, a ruse? No, not a ruse, she was honest. She followed her goals, which sometimes also led to adventure. She depended on no one, but everyone wanted to depend on her. The more they needed her the less they interested her. Her perfect man would be out of reach.
He picked up a tear-shaped pod of rubbery seaweed. As he shook the pod near his ear, he heard water rattle inside. He turned it in his hand several times, mindlessly, then took a step in reverse, wound his arm down, back, picking up speed, and arcing it at a sideways angle over his head, he released the pod toward the ocean. It righted itself aerodynamically and sailed over a wave, plopping below the surface. Though it had an air bubble inside, he lost sight and didn’t know whether or not it floated. He didn’t care.
He’d glance toward the woman to see if she noticed him. No, wouldn’t be any sign. He wandered further, keeping the water just above his ankles. Maybe she’d have dinner with him. After all, in spite of everyone else, they were on the beach, alone. She’d probably want company. Chances are she would’ve noticed him when he wasn’t looking. Besides, she probably didn’t have another book to read.
Why I left Lyle while he was asleep? Who knows.
Forget that, I’m on holiday. Before it gets unbearably hot, I must take in the beach. That cool breeze-oh, definitely my kind of beach. Nobody’s awake I suppose. Dreadful ringing still-that insane band last night-such fun. Ghost instruments. Crashing waves drown them out. Life should start and stop in waves. Emotions are so violent, and I des-per-ately need this holiday.
What a lonesome morning! Imagine though, a tall young man could walk by, his feet displacing insignificant splashes of water from that slim layer slipping over the shore. He’d be wearing a tight, blue and white striped swimsuit. His T shoulders tipping their perfect balance to the right as he skips stones he bends over and over to take from under toe.
He’d be alone. I’d want to meet him. Except no, he wouldn’t be interested in me. He’d see a woman instead. She’d be mind-your-own-business, lying on her towel and staring at the sea, all picturesque and unconcerned. This woman, oh, she’d be attractive of course. A starlet propped against her elbows, looking a tad deflated but relaxed. No! She’d be sitting forward, hugging her knees and staring at the water.
My man in the blue and white striped swimsuit would be interested but he’d try to attract her through disinterest. The coy ploy. It couldn’t be a ploy though: only the authentically shy really pull that one off. She’d stare into the distance. He’d perform for her attention. So Pavlovian. He’d probably believe she was lonely. And wouldn’t they each have absolutely regrettable vacations, full of dissipating time, unless they met. He’d tell her so, but not right away. Why she needs him for that? Who knows.
No, first he’d loiter (not long) (not long enough) at a neutral but noticeable distance, and consider the best way to get her attention, to start talking. He could ask if she’d seen any good skipping stones. Her answer wouldn’t matter. Puffing his chest, he’d leave, just walk right off to find some and then return later to gab banalities of whether or not he’d found any. Everyone knows the question simply doesn’t matter, it’s the contact. He’d ask, in earnest tones, why she was on holiday alone. She’d change the subject of course, but talking for a bit, his persistence would find her hurt answer.
There, I’m back to dwelling on love. Stop. I had to leave. Lyle couldn’t’ve dreamed we’d ever last.