The light was a filter that brought a tinge of purple. It was one of those ended sunsets where it’s nearly dark but you’re guided by the blue. The clouds were fading into an orange sun, something I would call “pretty” but Elliot would marvel at; he was that kind of person. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing; I never did, but I could see the birds ahead, salt in my nose and it was enough to push me forward.
Plastic cloth of a backpack nudged me; it reminded me of a child’s tap, one of wanted attention. I touched my ear, it still rung in a lasting state of shakiness; my head thrashing from its sides in its own fear and touched confusion. I guess I could go back — to a house that was half way from expecting, and inches away from a limit. I guess I could go back, but my shoes and experience were telling me opposites; it was my happy place, where else would something lost wander?
The sidewalk was mixed with its black freckles and sand, the faded in-between stages of the overgrown and broken. An ice plant, spindled, tangled webs of itself, a thing of bloom labeled as the bothersome. The bundle of rags was tucked in the corners of the sand, a black hat that was scrawled over eyes that peaked into a world it didn’t want to be in.
Open-mouthed, I wasn’t in a place for conversation. But this man, this stranger, didn’t know me; what did it matter what I spoke?
“No, I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright, nobody ever does. Are you heading to the water?”
“It’s empty, the beach you know, the crowds don’t like the sunsets in winter.”
The teeth of yellow and chipped green unleashed their presence, they hid, scared under lips, thin and unkempt.
“You’re not the crowds, are you?”
Step. Step. Step. I continued, my feet pulling, and the rags recoiling into a future that was messed with. It was the promise a child made to a parent; an “I won’t end up like that” speech, but the thing is some of us did, and some of them didn’t, and I guess that was okay.
I looked up. Faded cotton, spread by child fingers looked back down. The watercolor splashed with bright berries, it was a sky I would call beautiful, would he? I looked up, the eyes looked back at me The beach was closer, just beginning in its sandy hills. I remembered the smell, and it brought back things that were forgotten, or wanted to be. The grains were all collected into mounds of lost things and grass searching for its oxygen. The wind tugged, just wanting to be played with. I stepped down the hills, half sliding into their mesh, and it was still a bit further until the ocean laps at the shore.
Soft memories grip the back of my eyes, seeing a time when the sky seemed brighter, the sand softer, still seized by the kid innocence of hope. In those speaking pictures I see him: prized possession, the youngest and blonde. What else would Mom want to hug?
I miss the ones that were mine, not the ones that belong to others. Something complicated only official by papers and signatures. I miss him, and sandy hair I couldn’t even keep the promise to protect. I thought separation was illegal but they screwed me over, something about “too little space.” It’s not like he’s unknowing, either; he’s older, but it means I’m not there, and I was always there. Couldn’t they be punished? Yet I was the one they were helping. It’s not like I could do much anyway.
I’m nearly at the water now, it’s lapping at my feet, and it bites because it’s angry and it’s old, very old, it’s been there for centuries. I look up, and it’s time that looks down, the hourglass, staring back in its taunting, teasing manner. I guess I spend my free time worried, tucked under the layered sheets I tangle myself in. It’s this complex maze of reasons under pillows. It’s running out, the time, strained dry, and it’s not long before I’m old enough. Eighteen: golden age, and I unlock it with my key, cutting frayed strings of attachment.
The ocean is beautiful. Colors from a star reflect in a warm color spectrum; gold floating on the water. It’s a shared jewel, but Dad always made it seem like my jewel, our jewel.
I guess I don’t know what happened to Elliot. They wouldn’t tell me, and it’s been eight months, so I guess rays have faded. I remember my father, and I remember my mother, clear photographs tucked away in the tangled web, but his face is blurred watercolors. Memories of the beach and its sand and Dad’s voice.
It rung like it always did, and my lips lifted when I heard it because it was mine. It was mine, as it would always be and he would hug me and say I was his favorite and it was a feeling that punched me in the stomach. A feeling that rung out with lighting bolts of its own joy. Soon that would disappear and drown, and it would slip from my fingers and fall into the water. I couldn’t save it, submerged in the ocean’s bubbles.
I look up and it’s a reflection that looks down. Not of what’s flipped in glass, but me on the inside. The light made by fables, tales, and holy books behind closed doors.
I panic to see such a thing. Panic for frayed edges and broken round ends. It reminds me of the fake, am I something fake? In a plastic or the unreal story way? I couldn’t tell but I wish I could.
I look up.
A plain sky just looks down.