Douglas Island, 1991

by Charlotte E. Wilde

I don’t remember much about it really, except the walk to get there which was long. It was summer. We skipped ahead, hand in hand, our destination blurred by minds easily distracted. While most of the beaches were rock, Douglas Island held the novelty of sand, with the promise of castles and the squeak of bare toes that entailed. True, the haze of years gone by have clouded my memory but certain moments still smell fresh and sing real, my perception of it all living on in shards of intense happiness and the taste of salt.

That morning she was late, having fallen asleep on the living room floor so I was told. Pensive, I imagined her there, all haloed red curls and dark lashes half mooned onto freckled cheeks and pictured her breathing steady, slow and deep. The image sank into me; a rock in a well, settling at the basin of my spine, a spot that, even at that age, I knew to be reserved for things of immense beauty. I arranged myself carefully on the cool wood floor of our living room, solemnly positioning my straight brown hair around me, wishing for curls, thick lashes fanning cheeks. I lay there. The child-like imperative of being discovered kept me still, struggling to quiet my breathing into sleep.

Later, when her hand found mine during the walk, the possibility of her thinking me beautiful as well held me like a lullaby. Her fingers, damp and plump, felt warm in mine as we walked, silent. Time hesitated; bursting back into motion only as the trail yawned wide and the driftwood-strewn beach beckoned us forward with a toothy grin.

The sand transformed our shoes to hooves that struck the ground rhythmically, dancing snorts and whinnies, echoing amidst high peals of laughter and gasps for breath. Our legs pounded into the surf and Gussie, whose dog sensibilities delighted at the energy of our game, galloped along with us as we chased the waves with prancing equine leaps.

True, I don’t remember much except breathlessness: hot breath and cold lungs; but the blur of childhood always rushes by before we are capable of quantifying thoughts, categorizing dreams into goals that live concretely on. It seems the memories that count are always those whose remnants are reduced to a feeling— the clean air so sharp it hurt my nostrils, briny as it rasped down my throat. Then the cold shock of water that trickled down bare legs to pink t-strap marry-janes hiding the raw skin where a hoof should have been that I would come to know as a blister.

The haze of years gone by has clouded my memory but left the colors of that day sharp as salt in my mouth. Yet, nothing so clear as the ride home when I fell asleep next to her in the back seat, hand in hand, round faces draped with wind licked forelocks, dark lashes half mooned onto freckled cheeks, and our breathing, steady, slow and deep.