“Don’t look now,” she says.
“Later, when I’m gone.”
I angle my head in that way she hates, fishing for a reaction. She gives me nothing. I lunge for the paper she left on my desk. Not even trying to hide my attempt.
“I said—“she snatches the white slip and stuffs it into her pocket “not now.”
The way she leans on ‘now’ makes me question my whole existence. Was I even alive before this moment? I can’t remember a time when my blood pumped for someone or something besides her. We’re home alone and I’m at war. The water in me wants to flow into her, to fill her to the brim. To find in her a body of water deep enough to swim.
The rest of me knows better, and so far, it’s winning. It’s keeping me on the chair, away from the bed. I pick at the pock marks in the plastic armrest with my pen.
“Tell me about that beach again.” Words are better than silence.
“You’re just stalling.”
Not the words I want. “Tell me again, and then I promise we’ll finish the project.”
I count the freckles on her face while she twists her lips.
“Fine. Not sure I believe you, but fine.”
She sits up on the bed and smoothes the pleats of her skirt. I wipe my hands on my pants. It was a mistake to wear corduroy today. Her tongue travels the outline of her lips. She begins.
“If you follow the road out of the city, the old one, not the new one, it leads to a forest. If you walk through to the other end, where the trees blot out the sun, you’ll get to the beach. The sand is coarse and the water is cold. It’s not a beautiful beach like you see in pictures, it’s never sunny and there are no pretty people lying down on colorful towels. It’s kind of…” she stretches the last word. “Lonely and dark—why are your eyes closed? You’re making this weird.”
I mouth an apology. Her eyes map the topography of my face and I wish my nose weren’t so big and my lips so thin. Any cartographer would have turned away with indifference, but she stays.
“Anyway, if you stand on that beach and breath in, like really breathe in, like it’s the first breath you’ve ever taken and your lungs might just burst any minute if you keep inhaling, but you keep inhaling anyway, you’ll smell it.
“It’s not salt or brine or those ocean-scented soaps. It smells like rain, you know, fresh, new?”
I nod, even though she’s not looking at me anymore. She’s somewhere else, and I’m not sure how to reel her back.
“Smells are important.” I’m an idiot.
She turns to me and smiles, “You’re so right.”
Now I’m staring at her, and I know I’m staring, but I can’t believe that what I said actually worked.
“You got your beach story, can we finish now?”
An hour later, I’m watching from the window as she walks to her mom’s car, black hair bouncing behind her. I pick up the crumpled paper and flatten it out. She put it back on the desk before she left. The four words written dive to my core and now I’m positive I’ve never existed before today. Not really. Not like this.
you smell like home
Veronica Klash loves living in Las Vegas and writing in her living room. She writes flash fiction, short stories, articles, and essays. When she’s not writing, Veronica indulges in her other obsessions: food, martinis, Japan, and goofy socks. Find her at veronicaklash.com.