A formation of seagulls flew high above, their silvery wings sparkling in the sun's setting light. I found a bench to sit down on, desperate for the sweat to stop dripping off of my recently showered body. My little ones, red-cheeked, and yet happy still to be frolicking ocean-side, showed very little concern for this hot evening, unlike me. With squinting eyes, I looked up at the gulls, their flight taking me higher, ascending mind over matter. It must be cooler up there...
And then I was brought back down.
Eric walked the little ones into a shop. For a split second I thought about getting up and going with them, the thought of air condition seemed luxurious, but browsing a million cheap plastic souvenirs did not. I stayed on the bench and resumed my gaze upward only the flock was no longer there.
A woman's voice startled me. She approached me so quietly from behind that I don't recall her words until she was standing directly in front of me. She wore a purple tee-shirt and dark blue jeans. Her hair was long and pulled back in a ponytail. Her eyes were clear, green, sad. She was my age, maybe a bit younger. On her body she wore a baby wrapped in a blanket. The babe's feet hung out, wrapped in yellow crocheted booties while the outline of delicate curled up fists moved beneath the fabric like a fetus brushing the flesh of a womb. Tiny rivulets of sweat dripped down from her chest. She held a plastic fan out to me, asked me to please help her and her baby. Her voice was beautiful like the sea.
My pockets were bare except for a few shells that I found walking on the beach earlier that morning. After I'd showered to come into town for dinner I slipped them in the tissue-like fabric of my skirt wanting to have them on me like jewels, only then they felt like nothing more than worthless treasure.
I shook my head and lowered my gaze, shamefully unable to look at her and the baby as they walked away.
Seconds later, my children came running up to me waving brand new shoddy fans like little maniacs, wailing, "Mama, we got fans! We got fans!"
"You've got to be kidding me," I whispered to Eric, telling him about the women and the baby. Together, we scanned all around us but she was gone, vanished between layers of scintillating heat. Eric walked off to try and find her but came back with nothing more than a frown.
I reached down and felt the shells in my pocket again hoping to feel comfort but they felt empty, no longer full of promise. I left them in a little heap on the bench and we walked on.