By Nikki Petrie
Artwork by Alli Rowe
We fell in love at the beach. Dazed by the pounding pressure of the sun which never ceased to loom over us, we sought shade in each other until the sun set on summer. You were bursting at the seams when I first laid eyes on you. Jumping from one conquest to the next to maintain your image, you started burning yourself as fuel. Then I came and like the first lick of a popsicle, you were glued to my icy surface. You clung to my cool winds that fanned the flames of the pain you could never face. But the heat of your gaze ignited me. I glistened under the compliments you drizzled over me, craving the way they melted memories of all the cold shoulders I had received when I wasn’t able to satisfy everyone’s needs. Together we were a simmer always on the edge of boiling over.
Our love wasn’t glamorous. We fell in love with sunburns and sand in all the wrong places, stumbling over our first attempt at being something outside of ourselves. We fell in love with salt in our eyes and knots in our hair, struggling to accept what we had never believed we deserved. We fell in love holding our breath waiting for waves to pass over our heads, knowing our love had an expiration date. But we were too scared to come up for air. I was your closest thing to trust and you were my closest thing to acceptance. So we played sharks and minnows with our problems, always managing to sneak past them. We floated on the surface of an unexplored ocean, believing we never had to dive underneath as long as the sun was watching over us.
But before we knew it, the sun set on summer. And we left the beach with sun-kissed skin forever branding us with the memory of who we became. But at home, without the ocean breeze, we began evaporating before our very eyes, falling victim to the water-cycle.
We became the beach. The water and the sand, two counteracting forces at odds slowly eroding each other. I pushed you to give me the love I couldn’t give myself and you pulled into yourself leaving nothing between us. Nothing but empty words: screams and silence, threats and promises, demands and apologies. We tried to remember the people we were at the beach, the people who knew how to love each other. But we couldn’t. So we yelled at each other for not fixing this, for not fixing us. I cried hot tears down red cheeks and you turned your heart to ice. All we wanted was to fix this, to go back to the beach, back to swimming on the surface.
“But we left the beach,” you said. And you were right. “We left the beach,” I repeated. And I was right. But really, I think the beach left us.