In preschool I was married. My veil was the hideous orange scarf my mother forced me to wear that morning, my bouquet a bunch of quickly pulled dandelions, and my glamorous, three-layered cake made of mud with some green leaves thrown in for flavor.
When my older brother handed me off to the groom, he said very seriously, Take good care of her. The boy nodded solemnly and slipped a ring woven out of grass onto my finger. Years later, what I remember best about him was that he had a mole right at the end of his nose. The girls had whispered that it was because he had been kissed by fairies, but I wasn’t sure that I believed them.
One summer my family rented a beach house. On our last day there, my brother shook me awake long before the grownups had even stirred.
Come on, he urged.
Where are we going? I asked.
Come on, he repeated.
He strolled through the sleeping house as if he was the king; me tiptoeing and stifling giggles behind him. Don’t go out on the beach without parental supervision, our mother had warned, but there was sand wiggling through the little gap between our toes and nobody was there to stop us. We broke into a run.
Dipping our feet in the water, we shivered with delight as the cold waves washed over our tiny, smooth toes. Every time the tide rushed away, we sunk deeper into the sand. Then the ocean would come racing back to us, waving gleefully like we were old friends. Away it would go and then back it would come. Soon, even our ankles were buried underneath the golden sand.
This is nice, I said.
Yeah, my brother replied.
As little sandcrabs tickled our feet, we rejoiced in the calm, steady pattern of the tide. In and out, in and out.
After a while, he beckoned to me and we sprinted back; leaving only tiny footprints of our stolen moment behind. We crept back into the house- not even bothering to wipe the sand off our feet- and scurried like little mice to our beds; pretending to be asleep as our hearts beat the same rhythm as the sea.
The bar was crowded. People chatted happily around me as I drowned my drink in one gulp.
The bartender came to refill my glass. Blind date?
I nodded. It was my mom’s idea.
He looked sympathetic. He didn’t show up?
I nodded again.
The bartender shook his head knowingly. You’re going to need something stronger than that. He slid the full glass over to me, and I thanked him with a tip of my head. He smiled understandingly and moved on to the next customer.
I wondered if he got a lot of people like me or if he was just pretending to be nice to get a tip.
Probably, I thought. Probably.
I left a wad of bills on the counter and left. On the way back to my apartment, I caught sight of the brights lights of a 7-Eleven. My mother barked scoldings in my ear. Don’t eat junk food. Wear this scarf. Don’t succumb to your weaknesses.
I braked. Yeah, well maybe I am weak, Mom.
After grabbing a bag of chips off of the shelf, I brought them to the cash register.
That’ll be two-fifty, the man said.
Without looking up, I handed him the money and opened the door to leave. He was already talking to the next guy in line. How can I help you?
As I tore open the bag of chips, I caught sight of his reflection in the glass door and stopped abruptly. A mole. At the end of his nose. Could it be?
Thoughts shot through my head like fireflies. Maybe this was fate. Maybe this was meant to be. Maybe we were meant to be. Maybe, maybe-
I spun around and rushed back to the register. The man regarded me sleepily. Yes?
I scanned his face. His eyes were too big, his lips slightly too thin. My heart crashed. Sorry- I thought you were somebody else.
The man just nodded; clearly bored. As I turned to leave again, I changed my mind and turned back. How did you get that mole? At the end of your nose?
He looked at me strangely. I dunno- not enough sunscreen, I guess.
I nodded, feeling stupid again. Right. Thanks.
I turned and left the store without looking back.
That night I dreamt of that summer morning all those years ago. My brother and I were children again. The tide welcomed its old friends back, and the sand enveloped our feet almost greedily. I giggled, and the sand sucked me deeper and deeper and deeper until my laughs had transformed into shrieks. Little critters crawled all over my feet- eating away at my flesh. My brother just watched on solemnly and told the sand, Take good care of her. The sand nodded, and my last image before I was completely submerged in the silt was of the tide rushing away but not returning; my old friend forever gone.