Vacation, by Miranda Williams
My husband slips under the waves and never comes back up. I watch the tide claim his balding head from my beach towel. The aquamarine bodyboard with palm tree silhouettes he bought bursts from the ocean like a dolphin and floats away. It’s quick, wild with its new freedom, but my husband’s still under. Looking for him, a thought bubbles: saltwater filling his lungs until his skin is blue and spongy, dying and being reborn as a sea creature—an Atlantic cod or sand dab—and birthing more sea creatures, touching his sea creature wife’s silky wet fin with his own and smiling and traveling the whole ocean together. Something about this image warms me, makes me okay with his disappearance. I turn back to the book I’ve been reading.
David and I married at a beach—in wedding photos, we’re young, and everyone is squint-eyed, tomatoed from the sun—so we’ve visited one every year. It keeps us from leaving each other. We used to drag our kids for spring break. Pack all three of them into the back seat so early the dark and cold still snaked around us. We’d stuff them with drive-thru Taco Bell and gas station meat sticks wrapped in plastic. Splurge on Disney Park hopper passes and matching family t-shirts. Let them sip our frozen margaritas at restaurants and order room service brownies topped with vanilla ice cream. Once they were asleep, sprawled and sunburnt on the hotel’s cool crisp sheets, David and I would escape to the beach. I always wore the billowy white dress that made me feel like a mermaid or a character from Mama Mia, and he’d undo the top buttons of his shirt. That night, we’d make love everywhere—the hotel lobby bathroom, the alley between two convenience stores, in the water, on the shore with sand gritting my back—and later in the shower, flecks of black and crystal and beige sinking down my body, he’d call me beautiful. He’d say, “I love you.” He’d say we were young, again. We could do anything, again. Then, we’d come back home. Come back to eating dinner in separate rooms at different times of day. Come back to small talk in the morning and silence at night. Sleeping with backs to each other. Getting dressed with the lights still off. The kids don’t vacation with us anymore. We create reasons to go, act like they come out of thin air. Secretly, we know we both just want to kill our boredom. This time we visited so David could learn bodyboarding. So, I could sit with binoculars and my book while spotting sea birds. I bring the binoculars to my eyes, now. Focus. Blur. Try to find David’s flailing body. There’s nothing but a pelican scavenging the water. My book has a section with fun facts. It says that when food is scarce, a female pelican often stabs herself with her beak. Feeds her mate and babies with her blood. I can understand her sacrifice. A lifeguard walks up to my towel, and I feel dirt kick up onto my thigh with his footsteps. He shadows me. “Finding any new birds today?” He asks, smiling with perfectly white teeth. His skin is tanned and smooth. It’s golden. Something I want to touch. Keep for myself. He’s perfect. Too perfect. I stare back into the endless ocean and look into my binoculars one last time. David is gone by now. I smile. “Nothing new. Just the usual,” I say, gazing up at him. He tells me to have a good time, before continuing along the shore. When I can’t see him anymore, I stand up. The breeze cools me off, and I think of David as I walk into the water. Feel it’s cold and the seaweed kissing my ankles. The waves are gentle as they reach my chin. Gentle as I follow him.
Miranda Williams is a 23-year-old writer from New Mexico She received her BA and MA from Arizona State University where her studies focused on queer and feminist theory. Her work appears in Booth, The MacGuffin, Lunch Ticket, Best Small Fictions, and Blue Earth Review, among others, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is an MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University. Find her on Instagram @mirandaiswriting or on her website mirandawilliamswriter.com.
Rebecca Ward is an adventurous, free-spirited woman who loves discovering new dimensions of her soul. While nearing a half century on this planet, Rebecca has recently turned inward to rediscover her childhood passion in the arts. Writing poetry and painting while immersed in music has once again found a home in her free time. Rebecca has one painting, "Salty Wind" that was published in 805 Lit + Art.