I let the warm grains of sand sift between my fingers and float toward the ocean with the breeze. I’ve never been here, but I know this place well from her stories. I close my eyes and listen to the rhythmic white noise of water colliding with the beach. Filling my lungs with air, I notice the brininess. No wonder she loved it here.
I open my eyes and shade them with the palm of my sweaty hand, watching as the dancing specks of sea glass disappear against the ocean. I imagine each is a moment she lost to cancer. What would today look like with her beside me, if sickness hadn’t taken her so swiftly?
Despite the heat, my arm hair rises like hundreds of tiny waves and blood crashes against my veins. I know she’s been here before, because she’s told me. But I can also feel it.
Maybe she’s here with me now. A cream-colored shell slowly washes up to shore and stops before my feet. I bend to retrieve it, examine its smooth edges, and toss it in the pink bucket with the others.
Maybe that same sand now floating off to sea once sat beneath her brown legs. I picture her feet stretched out in front of her while she rests under the brazen sun. She’s laughing with friends and casually sipping a rum and Coke (not Pepsi) over ice. Maybe she walked along this very stretch of beach to collect shells as souvenirs, like me.
I imagine her happy, healthy, and young.
A friend once told me that the beach ends where the ocean starts, but that line isn’t distinct. There are still bits of water on the sand and bits of sand throughout the ocean. Maybe that’s life. Maybe our beginning and end are not as abrupt as we think. Maybe there are still bits of her here.
I dust the sand from my hands and blow her a kiss good-bye.
That’s how I’d like to remember her. On a warm beach with a beaming smile and sand beneath her feet.
Before I lost her.
Photo courtesy of Jakob Owens