Elizabeth Wexler and Alisa Laska

Alisa Laska



The Beach

by Elizabeth Wexler


It had been a cool day on the beach.  The sun was starting to set, and he preferred the scorching heat on his back when he walked along the ocean.
He ventured out anyway.  A walk was just what he needed, he thought, to clear his head. To hit his “reset” button after all of the craziness of the weekend. He was afraid if they’d taken just thirty more seconds to get out of the house, and into the minivan back to the city, he might have started screaming at the top of his lungs.  He didn’t even care that she didn’t buy his story about why he needed to stay. “I need to finish this project.” Like he couldn’t finish it at the office? The only thing he cared about was feeling as if he could breathe again.
Zipping up his windbreaker, he set off.
The tide was going out, and he walked close to the shoreline. The sand was heavy and wet beneath his running shoes; it made a barely audible but satisfying fssssht each time he lifted his foot out of it to take another step.  It could be much colder, he thought. It’s not too windy. That’s lucky, I guess.  He took a deep, cleansing breath, noticing as the cool air filled his lungs how wire-tight his chest felt. He exhaled audibly, and felt the relief, felt the slightest loosening.
He kept walking, into the evening light, as the sky behind him darkened from the setting sun.
He felt his head slowly begin to clear. He actually experienced a sensation of space; the cloudiness in front of his eyes slowly dissolving. That cloudiness, he was sure, had appeared to protect him from the tugging pain in his heart.  The pain of looking at her, of looking at the kids, of looking at his life.  The pain of the silence.  She wasn’t going to acknowledge it, of that he was sure. The kids picked up on it, of that he was sure as well. And yet, he felt helpless. He was helpless to make her acknowledge it. Worse, helpless to protect the kids from his pain running off onto them, like water from the roof when it’s pouring rain and the gutters are full of leaves.
He knew he had to do something. All he felt he could do right now, though, was walk.
He came to a bench. He’d never noticed a bench on their beach before. Were these new? Or had he always been so consumed with wrestling the chairs and umbrella and pails and shovels that he had walked right past it without even seeing it? It’s possible. It wouldn’t have been the only thing he’d missed in the past few years.
The beach was empty. The crashing of the surf was a big sound, but a comforting one.  The tangible relief he felt at stillness of human interaction, or lack of it, was allowing his breathing to become slower, deeper. The solitude was palpable.  That’s why, despite the rhythmic sound of the waves hitting the beach, he sensed a joyful silence. Joyful, and terrifying.  He was alone with his thoughts.
The sky was streaked with clouds sucking up the color of the sun setting to his right and a bit behind him.
He took a deep breath. What a mess, he thought.  Yet as he felt his chest open, his heart pounding from within his chest, he sank into the bench and surrendered.


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