“In movies, scenes like this are often played out in slow motion, but in life, it couldn’t be more different. It’s a heady, jagged rush and the sudden unbalance with your foot leaving the water and hot flesh and blood crashing through icy whitecaps, the action making everything fast and alive.”
The salty waves rose in glimmering cinereal crests before body slamming the sand and fanning around my feet. Struggling to be heard over the gabbling seagulls, I twist toward my companion. “It’s not that cold. I dare you to go up to your shoulders before me.”
Sand crunches as she backs away. “Not a chance. It’s freezing.”
I curl my toes as the water rushes back and is eaten up by another oncoming swell. “Scaredy-mouse. It’s pretty warm, for late September.” She shifts her weight from her left leg to her right, pausing for a moment with a bored glance in my direction before bounding into the ocean.
“Not fair!” I hurl myself after her, my longer legs closing the distance. In movies, scenes like this are often played out in slow motion, but in life, it couldn’t be more different. It’s a heady, jagged rush and the sudden unbalance with your foot leaving the water and hot flesh and blood crashing through icy whitecaps, the action making everything fast and alive. We both stop, breath rasping, our heads poking like buoys above the sea, squinting through the spray at each other, unsure of who had won. The real shock of the cold didn’t hit me for a moment, but when it did I began to laugh. There’s nothing particularly funny about the bone-gripping chill, but I’m shivering so hard that I think it came out verbally, the thin sound punctuated by my chattering teeth.
She sloshes water at me with a brisk swipe. When she speaks, her voice is rapid, and higher than its usual pitch. “Come on, nutcase, let’s get you wrapped up in a towel. Hell, let’s get me wrapped up in a towel. Pretty warm for late September, yeah, right.” We trudge back through the waves, me watching the sea swirling around my legs, her gaze lighting on the puffed-up gulls. The sky is darker than when we arrived, and it almost seems like an old-fashioned film, until her neon green bathingsuit catches at the edge of my vision.
“Are you going home on the ferry?”
“Yeah.” She scrapes her foot through the sand, agitating it into a small mushroom cloud that shifts apart in the current. “We have to be at the dock by three.”
“What time is it now?”
“No idea. Do you want the orange and white striped towel?”
“Well, suck it up, because I call the dragonfly one.”
I tuck the rough cloth around me, trying not to feel like an oversized clownfish. My companion rubs her arms vigorously, the tips of her hair, spiky and soaked dark by the tide, flicking with the movement of her head. I sink down, trying to leech out the remaining warmth the sand stole from the sun. Staring at the slatey, undulating ocean, an empty, uncomfortable feeling throbs in the pit of my stomach. I’m not ready for her to go.
“Girls! Come on up to the car, if we don’t put the pedal to the metal we’re going to be late!” I stretched out my hand, and she pulled me to my feet, muttering, “Lazy ass,” before we scuffled toward my mother’s silhouette, hand in hand, kicking sand at each other’s ankles.
As the ferry is pulling away, we call out over the water, “See you later,” and “I’ll call you sometime,” and “Taco breath,” and “I love you.” But this link that our voices establish, it’s slipping away, and then it dissipates, like salt into the sea. I suppose her presence will do the same– teachers will take her name off of roll call, her seat by my side at the lunch table will be encroached upon, and then taken. This change is internal, not visible on the surface except for the faintest of fadings, a single vibrant thread teased from a vast tapestry. And I don’t know when I’ll see her next, or if I’ll see her ever again. The future is an uncertain thing, wobbling aimlessly like the needle of a broken compass.
Turning to Mom, I smile, saying that we better go, that I’m getting cold. I fail to mention that it’s not the kind of chill that can be thawed by the heat of the car’s radiator. Now, I strive to siphon warmth from her words, our moments together. The Earth’s sun has shed its downy winter cloak of clouds, but mine has set. And unlike its non-metaphorical counterpart, the probability of it rising tomorrow is uncertain.