Thursday, August 17, 2006

pebble beach


I pulled the car over on the side of the road. I turned off the engine and sat for a moment. After I got out, I dropped my keys into my bag and looked both ways before crossing the street. I stood at the top of the stairs, leading down into the thick forest. To the left there was a notice board with sets of keys and pairs of glasses pinned up - lost and found, meaningless to anyone but the owners. Next to that there was a sign that read, "Please refrain from touching the baby seals". The smell of fir trees hung thick in the air. The farther I got down the stairs, the darker and damper it was until I got close to the end. I could hear the sounds of kids playing and see the sun starting to penetrate the thick canopy. At the bottom I landed in sand. I removed my shoes and walked toward the water. To the left, off in the distance, there was a grouping of people and what looked like make-shift tents in a variety of colors and patterns. The beach was scattered with thick logs, all parallel with the horizon. A few were occupied with people leaning up against them. I picked up a couple of smooth stones from the sand, and held them lightly. I shook them around in my right hand. In the distance the mountains rose from the water, one layered against the next. I walked toward the shore and stood in the wet sand. I waited and let the waves come to me, the cold water a surprise. For some reason I always expect the Pacific to be warm.

Retreating back up the steps took about ten minutes and left me breathing heavy and my heart beating fast. As I got back to my car, I slid the pebbles into my purse.

***

That night Michael met me in the lobby of my hotel. The elevator door opened and there he stood, waiting patiently, hands in his pockets. He looked even better than he did ten years ago, when we were still so young. He wore a navy suit with a crisp white shirt and no tie. He was as tall as I remember. He smiled as I walked toward him, his head tilted slightly to the right.

"Michael - you look exactly the same", I said, nervously adjusting my purse.

"You look even better", he told me.

We embraced for a moment and then I pulled back to take him in - those lips, those smiling eyes I thought I would never see again. Even his hands - they were exactly the same. He walked me to his car and opened the door for me. He took me to a little place on the water. We spent the evening eating and drinking and filling in blanks - far fewer than I imagined.

***

The next morning I got up early to go for a walk in the park before my meetings. The girls made me promise to call 'right away' to tell them how dinner with Michael went. At first I couldn't bring myself to call anyone. When I got back from my walk I took a shower and had something to eat. I felt better and made a couple of calls. Before I told them how much fun I had with him, how easily we made each other laugh, and how good he looked, I told them what I knew they wanted to know most.

"Yes, he has a girlfriend."

"Oh", and then a pause.

"And it's not even new. It's been over a year, but it's fine."

I admit, it caught me off guard, but I recover well (at least on the surface). I was ok with it, but I was more worried about telling my friends because even though I assured them I had no expectations, I know they worry about me. They want good things for me and they probably think that I was just saying I had no expectations to save face and that this would do me in, but it didn't. It was just a twinge at the moment and a few mild aftershocks since. Mostly I've just marveled at how much we still like each other. I guess I always knew how I felt about him, but it came through in every way how much he still genuinely likes me. It felt good.

After I finished making my calls, I showered and got ready for my meeting. I took the skytrain and soaked in the landscape of the city as it swept past. Taking a drink from my bottle of water, I remembered the pebbles that were still in my purse. I had a sudden urge to swallow them, like pills. I imagined how they would feel in my mouth and how easy they would go down.

2 comments:

Lx said...

down those pebbles with four shots of your favorite libation, and report back to us at once.

regarding the man w/the girlfriend: consider yourself lucky that some other poor woman has to deal with him.

Rachel said...

Done and done, only instead of pebbles I ate thai food - the spicier the better.