A few nights ago, on her fortieth birthday, Janelle was drunk from absinthe at the Beachside bar, lit like an oil lamp from within — ready to hit the water in the dark and swim for it before another birthday. Who would know?
Two men were kissing sweetly and playfully by the door. Her eyes felt stuck. She wanted to say something — to ask if she could join.
Today at the ocean the sun feels half-cocked and crazy, clouds covering and then uncovering her, so warm and still. A woman on the beach should have silky fresh-pressed child’s skin — pearly. Janelle’s skin is wrinkled, lasso lines around her eyes, orange-tinted from tanning fluid. At night she feels twenty.
The heat is something awful, she has cotton-mouth… and suddenly, her dad is walking toward her on the sand — limping because of his bad toe. He is dead and so she smiles, it is good to know him. He looks annoyed, as though she’s still a child with the flu, vomiting and sobbing.
He says, “Janelle, stop retching. There is only so much liquid.”