‘What if someone sees?’ I said. He told me not to worry. ‘No one here cares,’ he said. I wasn’t convinced. A man with a dog was walking at the water’s edge, headed in our direction. I sat up. ‘Can we wait?’ I said. ‘Just till he’s passed?’ ‘It’s okay,’ he said. ‘I recognise him. He’s always here. He’s a player. He won’t bother us. Don’t worry, just relax.’ I put my head back onto my left forearm so I could still see the shoreline, and I let him ease my bathers down. ‘It’s not a nudist beach, is it?’ I said, as he pulled them over my feet. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Stop talking.’ The man with the dog looked across, but he didn’t change his pace, or stop. And then he’d passed us, and he didn’t look back. But there was another figure coming towards us. And in the other direction, but quite far away, a couple. ‘There’s people everywhere,’ I said. But he didn’t stop, and he didn’t say anything more. He smiled, though. He was handsome – I liked the way he was put together. And there was confidence in that smile. Surety. Not quite a swagger, but something approaching it, and softer. I couldn’t think what it was. It was humour, maybe; an ability to deal with things. And it didn’t matter, naming it. Though we’d just met, I figured we were in this together. And should there be anything to get out of, we’d do that together too. But nothing would happen. I knew this, because he seemed to know it. So I gave in, and he must have felt the shift beneath my skin. An easing off. His expression changed. He became absorbed, and I watched him closely – his hands mainly, but also his face – until it was finished. And I didn’t race to dress again, but I closed my eyes, just for a moment, and the burning sun felt like a healing salve all over me.
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.