Editorâ€™s Note: This is part one of a 14-week fiction series titled â€œI Canâ€™t Believe We Only Have Tomorrowâ€ that will run weekly in the Verve section.
We walk to the bottom of the beach holding hands. I decide to take my gloves off so I can feel her skin. We donâ€™t look at each other. We just feel each other there, her breath – my breath, the color of her jacket and my jacket in the corner of each otherâ€™s eyes. We listen to the waves and follow the footprints left behind from the seagulls. Beach wood lay all around us â€“â€“ splintered and sparkling from the peaking sun. Iâ€™m wearing a blue jacket and black jeans and my shoes â€“â€“ leather lace-ups. The soles of my lace-ups barely sink into the sand because it had frozen the night before. I look at my watch and notice I have cuts around my knuckles and on top of my hand. This almost scares me because I donâ€™t know how it happened, but the screech of a diving seagull, white, with marks of gray and with motionless wings takes me from the question: â€˜How did I get these cuts?â€™
On the drive to the beach I saw a sign with Jesus that read, â€œJan. 29: Let Jesus save you,â€ he is smiling and his arms are wide and the background of the sign is white, almost blue, trying to be blue, or heaven, or something â€” the color of peace. The sign is cracked from the weather and the salt of the ocean, and I canâ€™t get the picture out of my mind.
I wonder if I could ever meet Jesus and how he felt about my father, if he even did feel about my father. I also think about how I would try to subtly tell Jesus to get a haircut when I meet him without really saying, â€˜Jesus, get a haircut, your ends are totally split.â€™
The sign is torn in the top right corner, and the material flaps in the wind. My memory looks like a photograph in my head. Like an 8X12. With an old, curled corner, there are my hands on the steering wheel, packed inside of gloves.
There is the dirty windshield, splattered bugs and winter stains. There is the dashboard, dusty, and the trees, green and taller than everything. And there is the sign, smiling â€“â€“ hair,Â tot-al-lyÂ too long.
Me and Diane sit down on a log we wander toward we are both smoking, almost in unison. Seagulls fly above us, I wonder if they are vegetarians or just waiting for our hearts to stop and our faces to hit the sand. She tells me Leo is gone on one of his last business trips. She says even though the trip doesnâ€™t really matter in terms of the world and money and people, it matters to him. Dianeâ€™s new haircut is short and she describes it as daring. When I tell her I like it, she looks to the frozen sand near our feet, touching the strands next to her eye lightly.Â
â€œWhat was it like to grow up here?â€ She says, â€œYou know, before everything with your father.â€
â€œHe loved the beach. I remember one year he bought me a kite â€”like a dragon kite, it â€”â€ I say but stop, feeling nervous, then, â€œyou know youâ€™re the only one I can talk to about my father,â€ I say looking at the side of her face. I donâ€™t want to look at her. Ash falls from the end of her cigarette, dirtying the maroon lapel on her jacket.
â€œYou know what he did wasnâ€™t your faultâ€¦Jude.â€
â€œI would have had it no different.â€
She kisses my neck and I grab the side of her cheek.
â€œWhen does Leo get back?â€
Itâ€™s freezing outside, the wind wraps itself around our hands and joints and eyes and toes and hurts, cutting through the denim of our jeans. I glance to my car in the parking lot and notice I left my coffee on the roof of the car, fighting the wind.
Diane continues to talk to me, and I can barely hear her over the wind.Â Â Seagulls float above us. Iâ€™m rubbing the cuts on my knuckles, Dianeâ€™s mouth moves next to the side of my face, and I begin to hear symphonies in the wind, like a cello or violin, all in the wind. Finally I catch the tail end of a sentence that says:
â€œâ€¦do you think you are like himâ€¦like in terms of how sensitive he wasâ€¦â€
No answer, only wind.
I take two mental notes: One, Dianeâ€™s voice should most definitely be used on radio and two, Iâ€™m noticing dead birds â€“â€“ more dead birds than usual, bones and wings and hollowness.
â€œWhat do you see when you close your eyesâ€ she says, adjusting her position on the log, â€œlike when you close an eye and push on it. I see spots.â€ She says pushing her eye.
I push my eye and she laughs grabbing for my fingers and says no, like this and she pushes a finger into the corner of my eye, lightly.
I smile enough to show my teeth, and I can feel her grin too. The sky is gray and on top of us. The log is damp, and I think about how I have always wanted wood floors in my house that are the same dark, deep-brown color.
â€œI see blue spots at the top of my eye, they fire off unaware of time or themselves, and they exist and then they evaporate.â€
â€œWhat else do you see?â€
â€œI see hints of yellow on the bottom of my eye. Doing the same thing, just not as obvious, they disappear a lot quicker.â€ She drops her finger from my eye and says that those dots are what she sees too. And then she asks, â€œWhat do you think they mean, what do you think they are?â€ I donâ€™t answer because Iâ€™m still feeling her, like the dots in my eyes.
â€œYour eye looks swollen now,â€ she laughs and drops her head back, giggling quietly. Seagulls float above us, lusting over the tops of our heads.
We pause. Iâ€™m still thinking about Jesus and his hair and my father and the ash that fell onto Dianeâ€™s lapel. The wind is still shaking her hair and it looks alive, she is wearing maroon and sitting cross-legged on a fossilized log, next to me, poking me in the eye and she is alive.
â€œThis world feels too much like a movie,â€ she says, â€œlike how can they expect us all to believe we are going to die next week. The f***ing president is even saying goodbye.â€
Iâ€™m barely listening.
â€œI donâ€™t want to think about it. This whole moon killing us idea â€” I donâ€™t want to think about it.â€ She kisses my neck and grabs both of my hands.
â€œDo you think it is going to hurt?â€ I ask.
â€œI think itâ€™s going to exist and then just evaporate.â€
â€œI canâ€™t believe youâ€™re not scared. I barely believe you.â€
â€œWeâ€™re going to be together and then poof, all together weâ€™re not, Iâ€™ll die loving you.â€
Seagulls screech, the ocean roars, Jesus stands with his arms wide, she wears maroon â€“â€“ I wear blue, I see the president saying goodbye, and Iâ€™m still alive for now. Iâ€™m wondering how long until Leo is home calling for Diane. Asking where she is, like it matters where any of us are.Â Â I glance over to my car; the coffee cup is still on my roof, fighting the wind.
Staff writer Lucas Dean FiÅ¡er is a senior creative writing major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.