by Holly Rae Garcia
Jellyfish were dead on the sand, just beyond the surf’s reach. Remember how the grit covered their once-purple bodies, leaving them nothing more than dirty, deflated bubbles? It’s possible you didn’t see them; your eyes were full of light back then and shining on me. Or maybe you don’t remember those dirty blobs on the sand at all. But they were there, waiting for someone to step on them and feel their not-long-dead-but-still-painful sting.
We walked into the breaking waves until water crept up to our waists and we squealed with the cold shock of it, even though it brought a welcome relief from the raging sun above. You laughed that magnificent laugh of yours and dove beneath a wave. For a minute I couldn’t see you, but your black hair broke the surface after the water finished rushing over you, and around me. You rubbed your eyes before opening them, eager to see if I had gone under with you, but I didn’t. I should have.
Do you remember floating on our backs and holding hands while we watched the pelicans fly beneath the clouds? We were past the second sandbar so the waves no longer crashed against us, but undulated beneath. You told me that bull sharks had no problem swimming in shallow water and could be below us at that very moment. I told you about a jellyfish next to us, and we let go of each other’s hand as we swam away from it. Maybe the bull shark swam with us, you said before pulling me closer and kissing me there in the low swells and salty air. A boat horn echoed in the distance and a mullet splashed nearby, but we only caught a glimpse of its silver tail as it slipped beneath the surface.
It was a perfect day, preceded and followed by many other perfect days. Seeing you now in this chair, in this place, has me reminiscing. A garishly bright sign above the nurse’s station announces a “Tiki Party,” so maybe that’s what brought me back to the beach, with you. Anywhere but this quiet room where life seems to stall. Sunlight filters in through heavy drapes and two old men slowly play checkers behind us. The “clack-clack” of the playing pieces is almost keeping beat with the soft music coming from the speakers in the ceiling.
I lean close to you and whisper, “I love you.”
You stare at me through time-clouded eyes, confused. Clutching the blanket in your lap, you look around for the nurse.
I miss you.
I miss the sand, the waves, and the mullet. I miss the boat even though it interrupted our embrace. I miss the clouds and the pelicans. And if it meant I could go back to that day with you one more time, I even miss the jellyfish.
Holly Rae Garcia is a photographer and author on the Texas Coast. Her novels include Cone Join The Murder and The Easton Falls Massacre: Bigfoot’s Revenge. She is also the editor-at-large for Versification, a punk poetry magazine.