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Fingers covered with wet sand. The skin tinted the slightest shade of pink by the mild kiss of sunburn. Both hands are submerged in order to protect them from the beating sun. Ocean water laps at her feet, erasing all that could have been had the tide pulled it a different direction. The sand is a warm cave, and she burrows deeper.
I turn and ask her if she finds the same profound comfort in the sand that I do.
She bluntly points out that the sun is hot and the sand is cool. She pulls her hands from the sand and folds her arms, as if this question was some affront to her dignity.
A seagull catches my eye and I look above the waves at the silhouette of the bird against the setting sun. The sky takes on a fading purple hue as the last hours of daylight begin to pass. Beach-goers fold their umbrellas and shake sand out; in the dimming light this beach has lost its value for the day.
Sitting next to her I feel as if the vast ocean is not in front of me but in between us; shallow pools, murky depths. The wind whips up her hair and she rummages in her bag for a hat.
The buffeting air and swirling grains of sand engage in a dialogue more compelling than ours.
I think of the kitschy “Life’s A Beach” coffee mug that sits in the cubicle next to mine. I consider the way it annoyingly reminds everyone in the office of its message as it is refilled day after day.
And I consider leaving it on a beach and letting the sun, the salt, the sand, the shells and the sea that it proclaims to be life itself bear down upon it until it is nothing but porcelain shards scattered among the sea shells.
Just then I feel the pinch of sand in my eye and I blink quickly. My eyes water and I notice that a young couple upwind is shaking off a towel, sand flying from it like coarse flower petals from a bridesmaid’s basket.
For a brief instant the beginning of a question comes to my lips, but it falls back in my throat and I say nothing.
Instead I reach into the cooler and pull out another drink, wiping off the condensation on my towel.
And we both stare, one of us at, and one of us into, the ocean.