It's cloudy today. The sky is a blank white, a modern art painting that disappears into the cold open ocean. Footprints dig everywhere into the sand, the legacies of last night's revelers and of this morning's runners, the only people in this city who aren't hungover.
I want you to know that I've packed everything. For the past week, all I've heard is the scream of packing tape as I stretch it out over the flaps of boxes that contain everything I possess. And it's so much — I have so many dishes, so many books, so many accessories to living that are supposed to make simple existence easy. Sponges with a scrubber side. Lamps with clamps for bedtime reading. A footstool for reaching the top shelf. I'm taking some dry foods, too, some canned tomatoes and the boxes of Wheaties that you purchased months ago. It turns out that I also own a multitude of poisons: bleach, aspirin, rusted razors. And in the same box as my childhood Sanrio collection, there is a velvet satchel that contains a pistol. A house holds the necessities for life, and yet death occupies the space in the backs of cabinets or the bottoms of drawers.
A young man in a tan scarf walks in front of where I'm sitting, his flip-flops jammed in his back pockets. He regards the sea and its surface of diluted mercury. The camera slung around his neck meets his eye and he snaps a picture before moving on.
The details of the ocean present themselves to me slowly. The dark far-off stain indicates kelp beds, and the breakers have over time created zigzag patterns in the sand. Sometimes the waves I'm watching meet each other, a high-five of sorts that sends spray shooting into the air toward the virgin sky.
It's time to go in. The tide is getting higher. I put my hair in a bun and leave my towel and car keys in the sand. I walk into the water, and by the time my stomach is sealevel, I'm already shivering. But I have to do this, for you.
My toes dig into the silt underwater. A long strand of sea grass wraps around my hand, and I take the plunge, bending backward and kicking off my heels until I am all the way underwater. My eyes close against the salty water and a small wave passes over me, carrying me closer to shore, but I resist it and swim toward the horizon, out past the breakers until I'm treading water between swells.
This is where it happened. You were in a wetsuit, blond hair turned blonder by the sun. We could see the orange and red umbrellas sprouting on shore like summertime toadstools.
You swam out past me, looking for a bigger wave. The tide was higher then than it is now. Your surfboard was tied to your ankle and you shook your head hard to clear the water from your eyes, and tiny diamonds flew off your body, illuminated by the sun.
I was still an amateur. I stayed closer to shore and caught a small wave going in. I stood up, barely balancing, and when I was in water three feet deep I fell over sideways, loving how fresh my skin felt from the seasalt. I turned toward the horizon.
I prefer the clouds, prefer the blankness above to blue skies. Blue skies are deceptive. Instead of raining blatant raindrops, clear skies say nothing, and we feel safe, we feel the sun on our brows and we think today can be nothing but beautiful.
But that's an untruth. Awful things happen under blue skies just as often as under grey. Our friends and lovers will leave us no matter what kind of weather, and then it won't matter what color the sky is because it will feel like it's falling.
I let the air out of my lungs and dive under one last time. The miracle of diffusion ensures that at least one molecule of water that is touching my skin now once touched yours. Maybe it slid off the back of your hand or came into contact with your neck. Maybe it was in your mouth, maybe you spat it out or maybe it was pushed out of your lips when you were taken to shore. I want to drink this whole ocean, to consume every atom that once touched you. Or maybe it's enough to just bathe in it, to swim in it on New Year's morning, forgiving these waves for their trespasses if only they become the atemporal intercessor between me and you. If my hand finds the water that once touched yours, we could hold hands again, just once more.
My lungs begin to burn. I have swallowed too much water and the tide is getting too high for me. I breaststroke to shore, emerging with blue lips and shaking fingers. Sand coats my feet.
The front seat of my van feels warm to my cold skin. I change lanes on the freeway slowly, since cardboard boxes block my rearview mirror. If I hadn't packed all these things, I would have seen the ocean retreating behind me, becoming more obscured with every mile by palm trees and houses.