In Front of the Sound

Contributor: Chelsea Resnick

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We walk through the drip-drip gloom of Pike’s Market, Lena in an electric-purple windbreaker and Marc in a gray wool coat. We’ve never matched in outward appearances, Marc so handsomely tailored, and Lena so quirkily adorned in handmade creations, but we move in step, trusting in the silent communication we’ve always shared. We move past rows of watermelons, carrots, and kumquats. Somewhere off to our right is the Sound, a salty sheet of steel that we can’t see around the frozen stacks of halibut at a fish stall.

Marc speaks openly first. “I thought you were gone for good. I assumed you were married by now. Probably selling your stuff at craft fairs if you weren’t pinned down with kids or something.”

To fill the uncomfortable pause, we each take a haricot from a vendor, a stocky man in overalls and a knitted cap, offering samples. “The sweetest green beans you’ll ever taste!” His voice is like sandpaper, rubbing us smooth.

Our footsteps slow as we crunch into the green haricot stalks. When a group of tourists roar past, they jostle our shoulders and twist our postures. Lena says, “God, we can’t stand still here. Let’s keep moving.” We both understand that these words refer to more than the disruption of tourists.

As we resume our stroll, there is another silent beat in conversation, and we wonder when such awkwardness began. Finally Lena chimes in: “You look taller than I remember.”

“I don’t see how. Last you saw me, I was--what?--twenty-two? People don’t get taller after that age.”

“Still. You look taller.”

For a moment, we lock eyes. Then just as quickly, we look away again. The reflected weight of our stares tells us what we’d rather not know.

“So when is the wedding?” Lena asks.

“End of May. Hopefully the rainy season will be over. Victoria wants to have the reception in the park.”

We stop to buy coffee, ordering two small cups. “Just black, please.” Lena buys a croissant, too. As we pull money from our pockets to pay the cashier, we are careful that our arms don’t brush. Lena’s cash is a crumpled wad from a back pocket. Marc’s is a crisp stack straight from a billfold.

“How long are you in town for?” Marc asks.

“Three more days. The festival is tomorrow and Sunday. I’ll head back to Austin on Monday.”

We don’t address what will happen over the coming days--or even the coming months. Instead, we turn, and Lena asks, “Would you mind if we walked down to the water?”

At each pier, there is a landmark of varying interest. The aquarium. An information booth. An ice cream shop. A boat for touring the Sound. We see these things the way we notice our hands and legs--as matters of fact, easily taken for granted.

At different moments, we are tempted to remark on how each of us has changed--the creases in our faces that weren’t there before--but such words might sound critical, and they never make it off our tongues. Instead, we pass the time with talk of houses, jobs, and weather. Eventually we sit on a bench facing the water. Lena feeds the last bits of croissant to the gulls pacing at our feet.

Neither of us is sure when it happens. Or whose hand inches out first. But after a long while, we look down and see that somehow our palms have found one another, fingers thoroughly entwined.

“I always thought...” Marc starts.

It doesn’t matter that our fingers are knitted together, for we both sense the great unraveling that is happening.

We press our hands tighter.

The permanence of loss absorbs later, when we each ride in airplanes and cars, our bodies molded to chairs that carry us away. Our spheres disconnect and drift, but our thoughts are together still, sitting at that bench in front of the Sound.

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Chelsea Resnick is a Texas-born, Kansas-bred writer with works published by Hallmark Gift Books, Every Day Fiction, and StressFree Living Magazine, among others. She currently lives in North Carolina.
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