by Allie Burke ((Header art is by the incredibly talented Mark James.))
“[The water] gains speed so quickly. It inches across the sand like the speed of time during depression, and all of the sudden you’re soaking wet. You can’t outrun it. Like life. You can’t outrun life.”
I look out at the water crushing its own dreams. It’s dark. The lights along the pier are not bright enough to illuminate its pollution-ridden surface and the full moon is hiding somewhere behind the smog. I’m squatting because everything I’m wearing is new, including my shoes.
“Dangggg baby, back at it again with the maroon Vans,” he says.
I laugh. He makes me laugh a lot, and it’s not one of those laughs you push out in your day job to humor someone, while plotting to kill them. You only hear this brand of sound after 5 PM and on weekends.
I had a rough day. I have paranoid schizophrenia and my delusions are packing me into this body I’ve never seen, securing me shut, and my arms are not long enough to reach the zipper. Somebody took advantage of my best friend’s kindness, and set her soul on fire. I said something I will regret for the rest of my life.
All in a day’s work.
But it is night, and the grunions are out. If I had known when the grunion run was earlier today – or what a grunion run was for that matter – I wouldn’t have worn the Vans. Usually we are up on the pier. I could have asked, I guess, but it’s just easier to pretend like I know than to acknowledge my unwillingness to feel stupid. I’m not complaining, though. The $45 I spent on the Vans was worth it. Worth a night with my favorite people chasing down little white fish when the water recedes, who will all die in the bucket in about five minutes. The fish. Not the favorite people.
“PETA is going to be all over this,” he says, and I laugh. All these vegetarians shaming us for calling ourselves animal lovers.
Oh, shut the fuck up.
I can breathe next to him, with the offering of the water. I don’t know where this calm comes from that washes over me. I don’t like to swim. I’m great at it, but I don’t like it. I never go in the water and the sand is disgusting. I’m too white to be under the sun for more than five minutes. There doesn’t exist a life memory that ties me to the beach, but it’s all I ever need to forget the day, like I forgot the first twelve years of my life. I freaked out my doctor once with that one. He was pretty sure I was a victim of a bad Bourne film and immediately told me that he was going to bring my memories back. No luck yet.
I get too close to the water and my Vans get drenched. I hate wet socks. It’s a wonder how the water gains speed so quickly. It inches across the sand like the speed of time during depression, and all of the sudden you’re soaking wet. You can’t outrun it. Like life. You can’t outrun life.
I don’t get cold until I sit down. I want to walk to stay awake but he calls after me every time I get too far. “Don’t go off by yourself,” he says. He worries and I thank him for it, because I know he cares more deeply than anyone else ever has.
The cars sparkle in the moonlight as we search for ours. Finally, we find it.
“Walk the pier? Y’all ain’t down.”
The four of us have our phones out as we do, documenting the night. We know everything we do must be documented, but none of us knows why. There’s an ice cream machine and not a homeless person in sight. Our hands smell like Listerine.
“You need a dog,” he says to me in the car.
“You really be worrying about me.”
“Yeah. I do.”