On the Beach MAG

March 13, 2008
By Irene Ripley, Richland, MI

While everyone sits in the cold beach chairs in the dim light of the moon, we go for a walk. Amidst the pointless conversation, no one notices us slip into the dark shadows.

Walking in silence, minutes pass. I want to know what you are thinking, feeling, wanting, loving. ­Peering out of the corners of my eyes, I see you ­looking straight ahead, your blue eyes emotionless.

The silence is broken by your voice.

You ask how far I am willing to walk, and I reply I do not care. The sand is cool beneath my burned feet, my senses screaming relief on the scorched skin.

Silence again. You sneeze. I bless you. A simple thank you and it is silent again.

Minutes pass, minutes pass, minutes pass. The moon is higher in the dark sky, glinting white on your hair. Oh, that hair of yours – how I would love to run my fingers through it. The stars reflect off the ocean, dabs of yellow in the dark blue depth.

The silence is finally broken. A lounge chair comes into view, and you ask if I want to rest. I nod. Our hands accidentally bump as we walk through the sand. I mumble a quiet “Sorry.” You reply, “I’m not.” My heartbeat quickens.

We reach the chairs. I sit on your right. You peer up at the starry sky and mumble that you are so glad to be here, in this moment. I don’t know if you mean with me or simply here on this beach, in the warm weather. I don’t dare ask.

I look up at the dark sky as if trying to find conversation, questions to ask, memories to make and break. Your arm catches me off guard as it slowly slides around the small of my back. My body tenses; I don’t know how to react. I want more minutes to pass, minutes to pass. I am a thinker. I overanalyze every situation. How should I act? What is appropriate? Oh God, I cannot ruin this moment.

You arm slides across the small, small, small of my back. You are nervous. I can tell. Your hand shakes slightly.

Oh God, what is happening? I wanted this all along but is it really right? What about her?

You’re slowly saying my name, and I know I am supposed to turn my head. I know what is supposed to happen. Too many movies are playing through my mind: he looks, she looks, lean in, lean in, lips lock, lips lock, fireworks display – that’s what is supposed to happen. And even though I have waited for this moment for months, I know it is not right. My body tenses as my feelings are left caged by a brain too stupid to let ­itself get what it has wanted all along.

Oh God, what do I do? How do I act? Why is my mind going blank in a moment like this?

You say my name again. I refuse to look. I won’t look at you. I can’t. I won’t do that to her. I can’t do that to you.

I thought this was what I wanted. And now, sitting here, in this moment, with your shaking arm creating a sort of blanket around my back, the waves lapping against the shore like a thirsty puppy, the cicadas chirping high in the sway, sway, swaying branches of the palm trees, I don’t know anymore. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know.

“I can’t. I can’t … I’m sorry.”

My stomach is turning, and I feel bile rising in my throat. My eyes scream for tears but none come. I need wetness on my lids. I need salt on my cheeks. I need anything to tell me that I can still feel.

I can’t do this. I can’t do this. Quickly standing, I walk back toward the condo, leaving you to sit there and pick up the pieces of what just happened.

Walk quickly. Walk quickly. I need silence. I need the Florida air to keep me warm, not your tanned arms. I need the sounds of cicadas in my ear, not your voice slowly saying my name. I need the glow of the moon and the sweet sounds of the waves resonating in my ears, alone. I need a warm hug and a good cry and a best friend.

My pace quickens as I hear you start to run. Your feet hit the damp sand, splat, splat, splat. I can’t do this. I can’t. I know I can’t. And I am so sorry – for you, for me – that this could never work.

Your footsteps are now directly behind me. You slow to a walk, in unison with my short strides. We walk in silence back to where we began. No one has noticed that we left, and we slip back into our places like two stealthy lovers who merely escaped for a ­moment. We make eye contact once, and I can see my distraught reflection in your eyes.

What have I done?

Later that night, I stare at the ceiling for hours with dry eyes screaming for liquid salt. In the morning, as the orange Florida sun streams through the windows awakening my senses, as the birds chirp incessantly, and as bowls of cereal clatter in the kitchen, I wake to a sopping pillowcase and a cheek blackened from wet mascara.

Similar Articles


This article has 13 comments.

on May. 4 2010 at 6:46 pm
Ebonykitty SILVER, Naples, Florida
8 articles 1 photo 35 comments

Favorite Quote:
You can't run out of dreams. Dreams are the start of everything...

Who's the boy and who's the girl? Or are they both girls? I'm so confused...

on Feb. 18 2010 at 5:41 pm
juicyfan6 BRONZE, Mount Laurel, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 46 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." - J.K. Rowling

I like your writing style. :)

Ali.B GOLD said...
on Jan. 22 2010 at 5:49 pm
Ali.B GOLD, Lexington, North Carolina
10 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
I write whatever flows from my fingers- AJY

I like it. Very sad but in a good way. Well done.

on Dec. 31 2009 at 3:31 pm
Transatlantic, Bonne Terre, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 8 comments
Very nicely written. You provided a nice amount of character development for such a short piece.

maki:p GOLD said...
on Dec. 6 2009 at 7:54 pm
maki:p GOLD, Rocklin, California
17 articles 1 photo 47 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The only journey is the one within" and "You can't help anyone who doesn't want to be helped."

good job. its a nic piece.

on Dec. 6 2009 at 1:23 pm
I really enjoyed reading this and I enjoyed spending the short time it took to read this with your characters. Very, Very nice job and I hope to read more of this very soon! Keep up the good work:)

Nicegirl82 said...
on Aug. 25 2009 at 9:19 pm
i really wish that you would write the rest and i could see what happens between the two characters. i really love it and i want to read more.

rose66 BRONZE said...
on May. 26 2009 at 11:16 pm
rose66 BRONZE, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments
this is really good. keep on writing.!

Anjo! SILVER said...
on May. 18 2009 at 6:25 am
Anjo! SILVER, Roseburg, Oregon
6 articles 0 photos 212 comments
Wow.. powerful. Thats all i got to say.

bbyruth said...
on Mar. 12 2009 at 11:21 pm
i dont find this confusing at all, i like the vagueness of this piece.

great job, keep writing!

Liv said...
on Mar. 8 2009 at 10:51 pm
Alright. I'm so confused.

First:Is this a boy or a girl? does it matter? Yes it matters!

It's Fiction, so it could be a boy.

It say "he looks, she looks" so it could be a boy.

Mascara? It's a girl.

Now I'm even more confused. What just happened?

dan3 said...
on Feb. 16 2009 at 4:28 pm
this is one of the best! i read it in the magazine and thought it was absotively, positutely well-written!!

tweedle dee said...
on Feb. 12 2009 at 4:00 pm
glad you said no. you go girl!


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!