The incoming tide chilled my toes, icy water fingers
reaching across them to the bony tops of my feet, finally becoming cold claws
encircling my ankles. I stood my ground,
watching the sun turn pink in the western sky, sinking towards the ocean, its
withdrawal turning the water ever colder.
Shivering now I backed away and walked down the beach, away
from the hotel. Cabana boys scurried
about, dragging windbreaks and lounge chairs off the sand. Ahead I saw the first beach fires of the
evening being lit, each one surrounded by smiling vacation dads, blissfully
housework-free moms, and kids with long sticks and bags of marshmallows. Behind each figure, where the firelight cast
a blue shadow, I could see their everyday selves—jaws clenched with anger, eyes
deadened with fatigue and resignation. I
Past the big resorts now, I sped towards the cabins near the
end of town. The sun, barely a glowing
ember, lit the compound of cabins surrounded by weeds, old tires, beer cans,
and other debris too indistinct to name in the gloom of dusk.
I knocked on the door of the smallest cabin—little more than
a shack, truth be told. Nothing. I knocked again, harder, louder. Where was he?
Rattling the doorknob I found it unlocked. I pushed the door open and called to
him. No answer. I felt along the wall for a light switch,
but my fingers felt only the rough-textured wall I knew to be painted a sickly
yellow. I banged my shin on a table and
blindly reached for a lamp. Only a
figurine stood there, heavy and cold to the touch. In the dark I couldn’t determine its shape.
The tiny squeeze flashlight on my key ring provided a narrow
beam of light. I followed it to the door
of the bedroom. I knocked on that one
too, leaning towards the crack and calling his name. The force of my fist pushed the door wide open. My flashlight swept over the brown bedspread,
the nightstand piled high with cheap paperbacks, and finally the window. The sash was pushed to the very top, the
curtains stood apart. On the floor below
I saw the screen, bent as though it had been removed from the frame in great
As if someone had needed to exit the cabin through that