[img_assist|nid=4528|title=Who Do Your Think by Kristen Solecki © 2009|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=200|height=284]I went to the beach in a blindfold today, because once you asked me to. I wore the scarf you chose for me by touch: the one I wore often. The same one I told you I loved, and never mentioned the garish pattern made me cringe. Tied around my eyes, I could not see the pattern any more than you could when you chose it. It was a fitting penance.
After writing nearly forty pages this morning, I needed to go out and get some air. No one opposed me. I could not stay in the house a moment longer. The glaring hole in the line of books on the shelves marked the former resting place of your Braille poetry. The furniture was rearranged. The pages of my manuscript stretched across the floor from my desk to the living room.
Guiltily, I turned to neaten the house. But then I remembered it wasn’t necessary anymore. I was free. I was so selfishly free. No one would slip on the pages. There was no dog to wrinkle them. The stereo remote sat on the kitchen table. No one would complain. I could safely leave a dirty carving knife from dinner last night in the sink.
Every object oppressed me. Each change I have made since you left weighed on my conscience. I had tried to change; did I really try hard enough? Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I pushed too much for what I wanted.
Your last morning here, when I finished work, I should have offered to read to you. I knew you hated the dry computer voice of your electronic reader, and that you got a headache from your headphones. I needed silence to write, so you had no opportunity to use the stereo.
But I wanted sun and wind. I didn’t feel like escaping from the pages of my own book to be imprisoned in someone else’s. So I suggested the beach, wheedling and cajoling while you stood firm. I pushed too hard. You raised your voice.
“If you want to go to the beach, I certainly can’t stop you. I wish you could see how it is for me. Go to your beach once the way I do; see how much you like it then.”
And then I made my last mistake. Apollo, uneasy at our argument, barked loudly. Thoughtlessly, I crouched down and held out my hand. He walked away from you to receive the caress from me. I soothed him without thinking, sliding my tired fingers through his inky black hair.
You froze. I saw your discreetly grasping fingers register his absence. You knew what I had done. I made him my pet, depriving you of your guide. You could never forgive me that.
Some days I wish I hadn’t petted Apollo. I wonder how it would have been. Some evenings I fall asleep wishing I had conceded more, wishing that I had tried harder to change. But some mornings I wake up feeling liberated.
When I stepped outside the car, the heat baked me in a moment. Barefoot, I shuffled awkwardly to the cooler surface of the steps. The wood of the stairs crunched loudly, like when I spill sugar on the kitchen floor and am too busy to clean it up. You always told me I should be neater, and I did try. Stepping off the bottom stair was like landing on the moon: a bounce and a quiet “whooph.” But if the sand is sugar, the moon is flour. Or at least, that is what I imagine, but I do not know any astronauts to ask. The sugary powder beneath me shifted with each step, creating an unaccustomed strain from ankles to calves.
Coming around the dunes, the wind hit me like a punch, abrading my face with tiny stinging missiles. I kept walking, and after the first attacks, the wind became docile and refreshing. I heard a throaty chuckle, which became a series of staccato shrieks as the gulls swooped in. I smiled up at the hungry gathering that wheeled in the air above me. Each pass of a seagull intercepted the sunlight on my face, a shadowy caress.
Further down the beach, I caught the hiss and lap of liquid fire. The damp chill came seeping up from the sand between my toes. I flinched when I stepped into a slimy mound of seaweed. You always kept your shoes on at the beach, because you were afraid of fishing hooks and washed up syringes. Peeling it from my toes, I cast it aside like a discarded streamer, and approached the water’s edge. The sand changed to pebbles beneath my feet.
My heel was pricked by a sharp edge, but it was not the cast-off of some junkie. It was a shell. Groping in the sand, I picked up clam castanets, which I clacked together while improvising a flamenco dance. No one was there to laugh at me. The empty shells withstood the abuse for a few minutes, and then the last filaments were torn asunder. I held two halves in my hands and they stank of salt and decay.
Then, a roar! A hissing angry snake of water boiled around my legs, and numbed them instantly. I felt it shove past me impatiently, charging up the beach, and then return to flirt with my feet, trying to lure me into the ocean. Standing there I remembered that poem you loved, which was too long. “I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. / I do not think they will sing to me.” They did not sing to me either, though I stayed all day, blind and alone.
I have a confession to make. The sunset was not the same when it was merely waning warmth on my skin, and I did not love it as I usually do. But I did not hate it either.
Mary Kate O’Donnell is a nineteen-year-old sophomore English and biology major at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. This is her first published piece.