1. Last week, I fell in love. He had dark skin, black hair, and the middle thickness that means middle age. He also had two children. He held them like he meant to. I met his wife at the grocery store. I'm in love with her, too.
My grandfather sat beside me on the shore when he said, 'There's no rush, but a restaurant job is no place to meet a husband.'
2. The shore is a lonely place to be. I've always thought. We've stayed in the same house six years. Same hallway, same room, same window, same moon. It's got history. When I was 19, I lined the bed with tears, end to end, side to side. Days I would sit on the sand and let them fall out of my face. My aunt would walk me down the beach. I know, I know, I know, she'd say. My mother was angry. 'You're ruining everything, and he isn't worth it.'
This year, my mother expected tears and got nothing. I am almost 23, and maybe four years makes sorrow a slow ebb and not a sudden torrent. But she would still squint at me. 'I know who you're thinking. He wasn't in love. Look away. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.' Mother, I know, I would say, silently. But the shore is a lonely place to be.
3. Our third to last day was gray. The whole ocean around us made my mother and I alone, bobbing and treading. 'I am not discerning, and I am not wise,' I told her. 'You are not cautious in love,' she replied. 'So you fall hard.'
My cousin Nathan never considered consequence. When we were small children, he would rush at the waves. He didn't meet them as a friend, expecting an easy lift to shore. He didn't meet them as an enemy, either. They met without assumption or expectation, with nothing more than the present moment of flesh against brine against sand. The force overcame him, but he leapt in again, while my cousins and I crouched on the shore.
His fearlessness was a virtue, we thought, but I always wondered. There were undercurrents beneath those waves, and if one had swept him away one day, would we remember him differently than we do?'I might not be cautious,' I told my mother. 'But I do have fun and I do fall in love.' She laughed. 'As long as that's a fair trade,' she said, and I'm not sure that I'll ever know that it is. I spent my childhood crouched on the shore. Maybe one day a current would have swept Nathan away. But he'll always have that moment of flesh against brine against sand. I don't know that that isn't a virtue.