The girl walked slowly up and down the moonlit beach, pausing
occasionally to search out a shell and hurl it into the lake.
“It’s two a.m.” The voice should have startled her, but she
only nodded in acknowledgement as he came up behind her. “Come back
to the dorm, Sarabeth. It’s not safe out here at night.”
“Why are you here?” she asked him, keeping her eyes on the
choppy lake, the waters churning fiercely under the attack of the
wind. She started to walk up off the beach onto the long stretch of
concrete and broken rocks reaching towards the Chicago skyline. He
“I was worried about you.”
“Right.” she said bitterly. “You know damn well that I
come down here all the time. The real reason.”
He paused, as if momentarily abashed, then grinned engagingly
at her. He had a charming Irish smile, guaranteed to break your
heart. “I missed you. I wanted you.”
She turned away from his grin and kept walking. “That’s what
I thought.” she said dully. “Go home, Tom. Go back to the dorm, go
back to your bed, go back to her sleeping there and waiting for you.
I bet she doesn’t even know you’re gone. It’s over for us. Your
“She went back to her room” he said. “She has to get up early
for a test tomorrow.”
“Oh, and that means we can have a quick fling between the
sheets that you just fucked her in? No thanks. Just go home and
leave me alone, okay?”
She started walking faster as she clambered up over the
rocks, awkward in her thin shoes and long skirt. She hadn’t dressed
appropriately before heading out here an hour ago. She’d been too
upset to think. He climbed beside her, occasionally offering a hand
to help her over a tricky part. She ignored him completely,
climbing steadily until she reached the high point of the rocks, where
she could stand looking out over the lake, unable to see the other side.
She could pretend for a moment that she was looking out to sea,
watching for the boat to come and carry her away to where her true
love was waiting for her. Then he reached for her hand and shattered
“Dammit, let go of me!” she said, snatching her hand away.
“Hey, it’s starting to rain. At least take my jacket.” He
started to take it off, but she shook her head fiercely, and he
“I don’t want your jacket; I don’t want your sympathy; I don’t
want to fuck you, and I don’t want you!” she shouted at him, as the
winds threatened to snatch away her words completely, and the light
drizzle of spring rain started to soak through her shirt.
A flash of something like pain crossed his face, and then was
gone. He stared at her in silence for long seconds as she stood there
shivering in the wind. Then he started to speak.
“Do you remember when we first came out here at night? When
we stood out here on the rocks after midnight and kissed until it got
too cold in early December? Do you remember the time I stood here and
shouted to the sky and the city that I loved you, Sarabeth?” His
voice was ragged as he spoke, and he grew louder and louder as he
talked over the growing storm. “Do you remember walking out onto the
ice with your hand in mine and you telling me you couldn’t swim very
well and then you suddenly let go and starting swooping around like a
bird in flight? And then the cops started shouting at us, telling us
to ‘get off the lake!’ Oh, don’t you remember?”
He stepped towards her again, and this time she stood still
and frail. In the moonlight she seemed a white ghost that might
disappear if touched. She stared at the crooked face, with long
straggly hair plastered down by the rain, at lines of water falling in
steady streams. She couldn’t tell if they were tears. She couldn’t
bring herself to reach out to taste them and find out.
And suddenly he had his arms around the solidness of her and
she was pressed close and she was still not responding. A rag doll in
his arms. Not stiff, but not really there. “Sarabeth….love….” he
whispered, so she could only know what he was saying by watching his
lips, “just talk to me…” She stood silent still, her face a stone,
her eyes closed against his pleading. He lifted her up then, easily in arms
strong from hours of heavy lifting at work. He lifted her up and
took two steps towards the edge of the rocks and held her out over the
water and he was suddenly shouting “Talk to me!” He held her under
her arms and shook her until she started screaming.
“Put me down, you idiot! I can’t swim well! Put me down!”
she shouted while he stood there in the rain, she terrified, he
furious, both of them lost and hurt and loving.
And he put her down gently on the rocks. And now, so close,
she could see the tears pouring down from reddened eyes. And she was
Slowly she reached out to take a handful of tears in her hand,
stepping closer so she could lick them off her fingers before they
melted into the rain. He stood, frozen in the light, as she moaned
softly before reaching out to wrap her arms around to him, to press
the length of her against him. She looked up at him then, somehow
smiling once, bittersweet, before kissing him. Over and over and over
again until he lifted her up again and carried her up over the rocks
to a softly sheltered place in short grass.
And only a little rain found them there, making it difficult
to kiss with open mouths, but not impossible. And she was warmer
without her clothes than with them, with the long, hot length of him
pressed against her. And despite long days and weeks they had not
forgotten how well her breast fit in his wide hands and how to speak
without saying. And the motion of bodies in water was long and
sweet as the light changed.
The sun’s touch eventually woke them from sleeping in each
other’s arms. They dressed hurriedly, all too aware of patrol cars
rolling much too close to their hidden place. Then they sat, cross-
legged, staring at each other. She had her back to the rising sun,
and he could not tell whether there were tears in her eyes.
“This doesn’t change anything” she said, a little bitterly, a
“I know” he said, saving these last few seconds like dried
flowers, like the first words of love.
She stood up then and started walking, across the broad field
of grass to the city path, back to the dorm.
He walked down and up the beach, occasionally stopping to
collect a piece of shining broken shell.
November 23, 1993