Feb. 6th, 2016

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At the sea I made a friend. He was great to know at first. He had firecrackers, gun magazines, plenty of candy stolen from the lobby. He was always up to something. Everyone he met he approached as either the target of a scheme that hadn't yet come to him or an accomplice. He woke with the light and reliably fell asleep right after dinner, face down on a couch or the floor. His hair was brown but his eyelashes were pale red. His eyes were always widening or narrowing, like a slow motion blink. Basically, he was disgusting. I disliked him more each day.

His two sisters were beautiful. I accepted his hauling me around through the half-imagined mindfield of his life as a plausible excuse to run into them a few times daily.

The younger sister was so friendly it took a while to realize she wasn't flirting. She most often wore an eggshell blue one-piece in the daytime. An oddly forbidding color, on a body. It had the very shade and shine of her skin, so seemed like some alien nudity. As though nothing more could be gained, which was true enough. She loved magazines like he did. In the evenings she put her feet on him and read them. His slack, mashed mouth drooled any runoff poison from his head into beach hotel corduroy or hides-all red polymer shag.

The older sister only seemed to express friendliness through flirtation. Toward me she wasn't at all friendly until near the end, around the time, and possibly related to the fact, that I'd given up hope with her sister. She wore dark things and denim most of the time. She didn't swim with us. Just once I saw her in a bikini, though I forget the color. She was walking back along the fence in the very early morning, coming from the showers. She had no reason to expect me standing there in a nook of the dune-addled fence (I was smoking one of her idiot brother's surely stolen cigarettes). So her mood was unguarded in her face. It was very unhappy, an angry unhappy, and since I didn't know the cause I assumed that life was. I saw a few yards of her scowling walk before she saw I'd seen. She walked past with the same set of face, but when I came up to breakfast she was smiling (they both smiled almost always) and clearly was strutting and turning her smile so I could see it. So I'd see how she smiled at life. I think her allowing the small liberties I subsequently took - and those she took back - was merely followthrough from that impulse. If we'd stayed a third week I feel sure she'd have become my girlfriend from performative inertia. She did marry young, I heard long after, and couldn't help wondering if the boy'd caught her yelling or crying.

I too felt like I owed it to her to be happy when she was with me. I hadn't been to blame for her demeanor but seeing it felt like an intrusion on sacred terrain. Compensatory lightness took me further than I'd have characteristically gone, in fact, and I can only assume the same was true for her. It made things oddly meaningless. Her flare of hips, as drastic, full, and guileless as that of the near-identical set on her sister that tortured me so, seemed strangely unreal under my hands, and in a way that made the palm trees, stuccoed walls, the tiled or pebbled walkways all seem similarly hollow. Even the air seemed somehow thinner, though my blithe lungs didn't mind. When everything's half off all over town it's not so different from when nothing is.

When they left I picked a fight with her, and then with her brother, so as to not have to stay in touch. I actually stomped on his foot so hard I could feel veins squirming. This was gratuitous. With her I just did the minimum. She held out her fingers and counted off names that fit me.

Her sister smiled and waved from the bed of their truck as it wobbled uphill and inland. Then pulled her hat over her eyes, leaned back, and shifted her smile to the sea.


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