“What are you doing?” Jessi asked.
I let the rest of the sand trickle slowly through my fingers and turned to look quietly at her. Her cheeks were drawn up by a squint hidden beneath a pair of white Hollywood Ray-Bans. Sunlight glistened in her tanning oil, accenting the lines of her amazing body. I remember how jealous I was the first time I saw her in a bikini.
“Why the sudden fascination with sand?” she prompted when I didn’t answer.
“Is that what you see? Just sand?” I tried to sound a little mysterious.
She flashed a bright, split-second version of her pixie grin at me. Her hands were buried in the beach behind her next to her towel. She pulled up a handful of the sun-warmed grit and let it fall away without looking at it. “I’m sure you’re about to enlighten me.”
“No, I was just thinking that… you know… how sand falls through an hourglass?”
Jessi looked around the beach. The breeze wrapped a few strands of blonde hair around into her mouth and she pulled them back carefully with a still-sandy finger. “Do you think we’ll get stuck?”
“In your hourglass, Ditz. Do you think we’ll get stuck when the sand runs out?”
“No, not like that,” I frowned. “I was just thinking…….. the moments of our lives are constantly slipping away, like sand slipping through your fingers… and like already a whole beach full of moments has slipped away and we can never have them back.”
“Like sands through an hourglass,” Jessi said in a deep voice. “So are the days of our lives. You shouldn’t be left alone in your head, Flower. Whose day was it to watch you anyway?”
“Moments aren’t just sand, you know…” I said, habitually ignoring her sarcasm before it began.
I could see Jessi’s eyebrows push together behind her sunglasses.
“We let them go… most of them, like all they are is grains of sand… but they aren’t. Like this moment right now. When it’s over…? It’s gone forever. And maybe when we’re done you’ll just remember we had some stupid conversation about sand… but then what happens when we’re dead and our last moment is gone? Then even these stupid moments will seem precious and you’ll wish you had them back.”
“You think about shit too much,” Jessi offered, half seriously. “I’m pretty sure when I’m dead, if I want any moments back, they’ll be the ones I fucked up!”
It made me stop and think. That wasn’t really what I meant, but she was right. Who doesn’t want a do-over… or a hundred? “Who says this isn’t one of those moments?” I asked.
Jessi made a face and laid down on her blanket again. I could see her expression relax. “If this is me fucking up my day… remind me tomorrow so I can fuck up the rest of my life too,” she said dreamily.
“Or just let it fuck itself up,” I added without really thinking about why I said it.
Jessi’s always right. It makes me mad sometimes. She never even means to be, she just is… without trying, like the way she can always find a bikini that fits. I was the one letting my life slip past me while she was enjoying the beach and the warmth of a summer day, and probably my company in spite of how hard I was trying to ruin it for her.
We’ve been best friends most of twenty-two years now. I knew my absent-minded comment had irritated her. The words began to echo in my head as I watched her lying there.
You would have thought Jessi’s head was empty from her peaceful countenance. I was the one irritated by my own words, and suddenly I was jealous of how easily Jessi milks her moments for everything life has to offer her. I watched the rise and fall of her tummy, kneaded by invisible hands. She’d been talking about piercing her navel, and I couldn’t help imagining how it would look, twinkling against the tanned, methodical undulations of her respiration, accented in perspiration…. I wanted to lie down and soak it all in the way she did, but I couldn’t.
“You think just because a moment isn’t earth-shattering it was wasted?” she mumbled lazily.
“No. Why?” Was she really not irritated or just acting like it? I realized she’d been watching me watching her, and I darted my eyes away in embarrassment to watch the waves instead.
“I just think you’re the one who’s looking at it and just sees sand is all.”
She was irritated alright! The next wave crashed louder on the beach as if to pummel me from the depths with Jessi’s words. I watched as it rushed up the slope, higher than the waves before it, touching dry sand, erasing footprints, and returning another small fringe of the shoreline to the firm, smooth, moist texture that begs us to write our names in it… build castles.
“Come on, Flower, if you could make this moment perfect, what would you do?”
For a moment I thought I saw the beach breathe! Begging me…! My mind joked that I’d make the hourglass wider so we couldn’t get stuck. It wasn’t funny, or wise or anything so I just dwelt on the thought. Time would only run out faster, right? I didn’t want my time with Jessi to run out.
“Do you think I’m sand?” Jessi added. The parallel with my thoughts forced a smile.
I shook my head slowly, still staring at the waves licking history away from their property line, unsure if Jessi saw me.
Moments don’t slip away. A moment isn’t even a moment until we decide to make it one. I smiled now more at Jessi’s question. In the simplest of analogies, sand is the ingredient we need to make glass, sort of, anyway. Glass allows us to see amazing things while shielding us from the danger of things like… our own thoughts. Whose turn was it to watch me, anyway? Sand is like the window to the past like our eyes are the windows to our souls. We are sand. We are erosion! We tear away at everything we find to to reduce it to workable compounds and then shape it… mold it… leave it to die… to turn back into more sand. We shape it into moments that slip by….
“There’s no such thing,” Jessi interrupted my racing thoughts.
She brushed meticulously away at her fingertip until there were only two tiny grains of sand left, and she held them out for me to see.
“Which one’s precious… and which one’s just sand?” she asked.
I knew better than to answer, but I did anyway. “I don’t know.”
“You’re so stupid sometimes, Flower!” she laughed. “You spend so much time trying to be smart, you miss the obvious! They’re both fucking grains of sand!” She shrugged, brushed them meaninglessly to the beach with the rest, and lay down again. “Don’t you get it?”
I didn’t. I stared blankly at her, trying to remember my original train of thought.
“You’re making something out of nothing. There’s no such thing as one moment that’s better than another. They’re all equally precious… or equally useless, whatever, and so what? You can’t keep any of them anyway! So why try?”
“I think we’re sort of trying to say the same thing,” I said.
“You want to know a secret?”
I didn’t have to tell her I did.
“You were talking about remembering a stupid conversation about sand, but no one remembers that shit. Do you remember that shit? I don’t remember that shit. But I’ll bet you in twenty years, I still remember how good this sun feels!”
I knew she was irritated!
“You know what, Flower?” she continued after some silence, “I can’t tell one grain of sand from another any more than anyone else. But if I really could keep them… and I had to choose… I’d never trade a single moment that had you in it for one that didn’t…”
Jessi ♥! I wanted to kiss her! I started to answer, but I didn’t get the chance.
“…no matter whose turn it is to watch you, you always seem to escape!”
I didn’t want to kiss her anymore.
Jessi rolled over on her side and took her sunglasses off, waiting for me to look so we could see each others eyes. “There’s lots of freaks in the world…” she said.
I knew she meant me.
“…but you always take me with you.”
© 2012 Anne Schilde