Maggie Nerz Iribarne
Your family chose the bayside, not the part of town closer to the ocean where I always stayed with my friends. You liked the economy, the savings. Why buy a five dollar ice cream when you can get a half gallon for less? Only fools bought ice cream cones. Your sister told me once you and your family were highly principled people. I thought this an admirable idea, but I could not say the same about myself. I just wanted an ice cream cone, even if it cost five dollars, even if it cost ten. I wanted so much to think the house you rented nice enough, but I quietly preferred renting on the side over the bridge, by the sea.
The First Night
The tinkle of wind chimes, the flicker of candles, the sea breeze wild, rushing through screens. The shrimp I rubbed with spices the night before in my apartment and carried to the beach house in a cooler were grilled and eaten, their taste still in the back of my mouth as we sat in a circle with your family, drinking and talking. You took a swig of beer as your face turned and settled on mine. I returned the gaze I hoped said love, you scanned my checked J. Crew dress, eyes moving down to my thighs. You stopped there, squinting a little. I knew you were looking into the trail leading to the small triangle of my unintended though inevitably visible underwear. At first I thought your look was a provocative or teasing one, so I smiled. But your hand came over and pushed at my legs. “What’re you some kind of a slut?”
I stood up and moved decisively in the semi-darkness to our bedroom, entering, closing the door quietly behind me, pacing. The ocean, far away from this house, roared in my ears. I laid on the bed and awaited you, listening to you out in the living room, reminiscing with your people, no one wondering where I went, laughter mixing with the wind chimes, blowing under the door and across my body. I knew you would eventually come into bed, turn your back to me. I’d whisper my exhaustive apologies, breathing in your ear until you gave in, turned to face me, pushing us back together, like surf.
I could have left at night, or in the earliest light, without a bag, without my clothes, walked down the road that ran along the bay, wind in my hair, sulfur smell in my nose, cars full of laughing drunk teenagers whizzing by. I could have made it into town, to the bus stop, if I really wanted to. Weeks, months, even years later, I fantasized about the sound of bus brakes, the suction and squeak of doors busting apart their rubber seal. I pictured myself stepping on, shaking and rumpled, sweaty, burned, free.
We were waiting to leave and this seemed as good a way as any. The boat moved slowly, cutting through watery aisles carved out from grasses growing up from the bay. We talked a bit, about what we had to do when we got back, but mostly we let the edgy silence, emphasized by the overwhelming chitter and buzz of insects, take over. In direct opposition to the sultry afternoon, my mind raced, my heart palpitated. I wished I could get home, somehow. I wished one of my friends would show up and take me away, but I was paralyzed by need, by sadness, by a desperate hope for love. This boat ride would take a while, get us to dinner, which would get us to sleep and then the next day, when we could go home. I breathed in and out, looking past your shoulder, out to the bridge which led to the sea.
17 February, 2021