Fireworks and Storms

I walked her down to the beach, almost silent, comparing the
taste of root beer and peppermint. She needed to walk, and I could
use the exercise, so we went down to the beach. A long, slow walk
down 53rd street and along the Lake Shore Drive, and then you dip
through the newly-graffiti’d tunnel, parts still sparkling white. I
resisted the urge to yell for echoes. It would have been too painful.

We passed the water fountains, pausing briefly in June heat,
and walked along the patterned rocks, separated by concrete bridges.
We had made no attempt to look beautiful, and the long, slim bodies
all around would have been embarrassing on another day, but that day
it did not matter.

Three teenage boys were setting off fireworks as we walked by,
waiting in their futile attempts so as not to hit us. Their dark
brown skin glistened with sweat and excitement, and I wished perhaps
that we might stop and speak to them, dragging them down with us onto
the patterned rocks in full view of all those people. But we passed
them by.

Finally we reached the cool sand, and she stopped then,
unwiling to get sand in her shoes. A moment of guilt at leaving her
there, and then I had taken off my shoes and left them with her before
almost running down that cool beach, still slightly damp from
afternoon thunderstorms.

The water, when I hit it, was still icy cold. You expected
that from Lake Michigan in June. It would be late July before
comfortable swimming temperatures. Dusk, and the sky was far more
beautiful than it had been in a long time, almost the same color as
the water. I don’t remember ever seeing it like that before.

As I walked through the edge of the water, heading further
down the beach, the sky deepened to match the water deepening, so it
was an always perfect blue, shifting. And when I turned and looked
back, far at the edge of my vision she was still sitting there on her
rock, feet above the sand.

Eventually we went home, of course. The joy of walking on the
beach and the perfect blue was still rising, a wave within me, and it
was even harder not to shout through the tunnel. It would have been
so easy then to turn to face her, pressing her back against the damp
black and white walls of the tunnel. I could have taken her face in
mine and kissed her, just once, gently, before taking her hand and
leading her home.

But when I turned she looked so tired, and I carefully did not
touch her. And we went home, side by side.

M.A. Mohanraj

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