You Don’t Know How It Starts; You Don’t Know Where It Ends
His hands are deep in his pockets, as they walk along the beach.
The sea and sand and sky give each of them an excuse to look somewhere other than each other.
It’s a beautiful day by the sea, as they walk along, sometimes faster, sometimes slow. Every now and then, he will say something that solicits a gasp of frustration from her that is harsher than the light breeze, and she will stride on ahead. He coils his fists deeper in his pockets when this happens, his shoulders hunching further down into his mood. It is as if his anger and anxiety are a black hole in the pit of his stomach, pulling everything in.
When this happens, they will walk on in silence for a few minutes.
She will brood in her way: All sudden turns and sharp twists.
He will brood in his: Slow to pick up speed and slower to change direction.
He will be staring out to sea, looking for reasons to be angrier and reasons to be calm. Either finding them or not in the distant hills and cliffs. They look like they are on another island, but are actually just past the curve of shoreline, beyond where he can see.
Or at other times he’ll see a cliff that he thinks is just along the way, just a distant part of where he is, and he’ll be wrong: It’s part of another country, distant across the sea.
While he is thinking about these things, she will always be staring ahead, and deep inside. She will come to some conclusion, punctuated by fingers run quickly through her hair. A decision he won’t see. She will stop, and let him catch up to her, and they’ll walk side by side for a while, talk for a while.
Still arguing, but walking together at least.
Ever now and then, one of them will try to remember how this whole thing started, and whether or not their side in the row matters. They won’t think to mention it, vaguely aware that it will weaken their place in the fight.
Every now and then, the sun will set, and they soften. These will be the times when they stop together for a while, watch the night come on. Touch each other lovingly, antimony forgotten.
Sink down into the sand, and make love, as the air cools and the stars light up above them.
As they lie there for a while, as their skin cools and their smiles light up, one or the other might ponder that of course, the stars were always there, and always as bright. You just can’t see them for all the sun.
It will get cold, so they will walk the shoreline a while longer, moonlit and hand in hand.
Until he, or she, or both, will say something or do something that recalls the row, and it will begin again.
At dawn, the light and warm and tide will soothe their tempers. She’ll get hungry. He will buy her breakfast at one of the vendors on the beachfront. Holidayers will start to appear, coming up to the beach from the hotels or resorts only a short way inland. Children will squeal and laugh as their parents lead them by the hand.
One of the couple might look off in that direction. They might consider leaving the beach. But the sun is high, and their bellies are full, and walking along by the water for a bit longer, trying to thrash this silly row out before rejoining the world, seems like a better idea.
After a while, it is hard to tell where they walked on to the beach, or when. The coastline curves and curls, and the sandy beaches give way to pebbles, then to rocks, then back again. Neither remembers how big this island might be. Are they still exploring new ground, or have they gone around again?
The sea looks the same, beautiful and relentless, wherever they walk to. There is no way to tell, at the scale of a grain of sand or a pebble, if it is one you’ve seen before. The distinction becomes redundant at a certain point.
Neither of them, if they stopped to question it, knows where this started. And neither of them knows how it will end.
They walk along the beach, his hands deep in his pockets.
It’s a beautiful day by the sea. The sea and sand and sky give each of them an excuse to look somewhere other than each other.
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