Sand in my Shoes
The flight back into London Heathrow was bumpy and the sky grey and cloudy. Back in my flat, sirens blare outside the window, cars race. Where are they all going in such a hurry?
I toss my handbag onto the sofa and throw myself next to it. I take my moccasins off and realise that I’ve still got sand in my shoes from being with you on the beach last night.
I take a deep breath in, hoping that it will ease the heaviness in my chest, but it doesn’t. I’m still replaying yesterday evening in my mind as we lay stretched out together on the golden sand beneath the honey-coloured sky and the pregnant moon. The salt breeze from the sea tangled our hair and clung to our skin and mouths so that when you kissed me I could taste the sea on your lips and longing rose in my chest as you drew me in close and I inhaled the scent of your skin: musky and full of hidden desire. I pulled your hands to my lips, shuttering out the certainty that the night would end and I would be boarding my plane back home in the morning.
But I’m a grown woman. I know these things don’t last. It was just a summer fling, right? Just an exciting interlude in my otherwise humdrum life. Isn’t that what I told you last night, in as carefree and nonchalant way as I could muster — that I hadn’t expected more than a casual summer romance with you?
Was it just my imagination that your face fell, just ever so slightly when I said that? Did the sparkle in your eye dull just a little? No, it couldn’t possibly be. That was just me hoping, wanting things to be different. When we met, we agreed that we would enjoy two weeks together without confusing things by making promises neither of us could keep. We decided to keep things simple: no addresses, no telephone numbers, no emails.
Another siren, this time an ambulance, screeches out in its shrill voice. Everything in my studio flat is a mess: my bed’s not made, my toiletries are scattered all over the bathroom in my rush to catch my flight out, my shoes are strewn here and there and there are clothes piled on top of the tiny kitchen table. I was happy here in my little London flat, before I took that flight out in search of the sun, before I met you, before you took my hand, before our bodies and lips entwined on the sand as we watched the sun set. Was I immune to the cars rushing through the night and the sound of sirens wailing? Today it all seems too fast, too loud, unnecessary.
I sit on the edge of the tub. My feet are sticky with the grains of sand stuck to them and I twirl myself around so that my feet touch the inside of the bath and I brush the grains of sand off. As I do, I realise that my face is wet with tears. It hits me almost as surely as if my face had slammed against the white, cold porcelain of the bath tub that I have to see you again. I made a mistake thinking that it was just a summer fling. But how? I have no idea how to find you again. And even if I do find you, who’s to say that you would want to see me again. You probably forgot about me the moment my hand left yours. You’ll continue your life as you always do: from summer to summer. And then next summer, you’ll meet someone like me who lives in a flat above a shop where the cars rush by and the sirens wail, and you’ll spend two weeks with her. And the same the summer after that.
Instead of running a bath, I jerk on a pair of rubber gloves and scrub the tub until it gleams. I unpack all the clothes from my suitcase and start to fold them up into neat piles and hang up my dresses. The flat is glisteningly clean in an hour. The only things that I haven’t put away are my moccasins and the jacket I was wearing when you kissed me for the last time. I don’t want to put them away. It almost seems like if I do, everything would be back to normal, everything would be tidy, as if I’d never left here, as if I’d never met you. It would be like tucking your memory away in a box and hiding it in a dark place where it would be left to slowly gather dust and cobwebs.
I pick up my jacket and pull it towards my face. I might be able to find a trace of you there, a hint of your aroma perhaps. As I crumple it towards me, I feel something in one of the pockets and remember the little bag of sea shells we collected as we walked on the beach. They clink together as I empty them out onto my lap and pick each one up individually, slowly fingering the grooves and crevices before placing them in the shape of a circle on the table in front of me. One of the shells catches my eye — there seems to be some kind of marking on it and I flip it around to see what looks like a phone number. My fingers shake a little as I dial the number and press the “Call” button on my cell phone. It rings once, twice.
‘Hello?’ I say.
‘I was so hoping you’d call.’