Monday, August 4, 2014


by james bezerra

I think I could like surfing. There’s a board strapped to the rollbars of a jeep in the 7-11 parking lot and it makes me think that I could like surfing. Legs dangling, slow and calm in clear blue water. I’d be tanner then. And leaner too. My skin would seem to always be warm, somehow, from the sun it had been soaking up. I could sit there on the board and let the water rise and fall and rise and fall and rise. And fall. Like riding someone else’s breath.

I flick my burnt out butt out across the parking lot and into the 7-11 I go. The white light inside is stale. There’s no one in the 1am crowd who looks like the surfer I would look like if I had a jeep with a surfboard on its roll bars. At 1am here, this many hours from any ocean, I’d only be passing through. Why would I even be here? Probably I’d just be on my way from somewhere else. Probably I’d been in love, but it hadn’t worked. For her I’d left the ocean, followed her back to her home, so many hours inland until the air didn’t even smell wet anymore. And we’d tried our best, we really would have. But you can’t power love with just the memory of kissing in the night under the crashing white shadow sounds of waves. It wouldn’t be enough, just to remember the grains of sand that had fitted themselves into the grooves of my fingerprints as my hands had slid along her smooth, summer-singed skin. But then her tan would fade back to the pale that had once marked only the parts of her that only I’d seen for those summer weeks. Her apartment would have smelled like taupe paint. Taupe is very soothing. At first. At first it seems to be the soft tan of beach sand. But the longer I would have stayed there in her apartment -  wearing socks and using coasters and working in the office at her brother’s auto shop -  the harder and dryer that taupe would have become, until it was a flat brown rocky desert. Until we finally would have had to tearfully admit to each other that it was all just nothing anymore. So I would have loaded up my jeep in her carport and lashed my board to the rollbars while gnats buzzed around the halogen bulbs above me. On the way out of town, I would have stopped here at this 7-11. Probably I would have been hungry.

At the counter I buy a pack of smokes and I can tell that the guy wants to say that he had just sold me some this morning and that he had just sold me his cheapest wine a couple hours ago and how come I couldn’t just buy all of my shit at once? But he doesn’t say anything like that and I pull out my wallet and I pull out crumply cash and the guy doesn’t bother to notice anymore that not all my fingers are there, but there are kids in line behind me buying a paper carton of beer and I notice that they are noticing because I can just hear the way their talking gets a little slower because their brains are working now because they’re wondering where the fuck the rest of me is and I want to tell them that I fucking left it in the desert. But I don’t say that. I shove my hand back in my pocket and I don’t say anything.

I light up in the parking lot. The jeep is still there. Still. I think about how nice it was going to be to slide back into the waves after so long. How good it would be to feel the world take a breath below me. To lift me effortlessly, thoughtlessly, like a child, like a bug, like a speck of dust, as light as a thought or an atom of light. How good the water would feel on my legs. On my own skin and between my toes. And I look up and I can see me there on the rippley blue ceiling of the water, my feet dangling lazily on either side of the white board. Happy. Slow. Calm. Easy. How good it must have felt to be me up there just then in that moment; returned to the sea. Alone and empty of everything that fills me too full too often. How depressurized I must be up there. How peaceful and floating I float there. And right now I’m so envious of that me that I’m almost angry. I drop my butt and squash it very carefully under my boot.

I think that I could like surfing. I’ve never tried. I could try. I could learn and then, some hurricane night, I could watch lightning cracking over a roiling black sea like a flashbulb over so much oil. I could point my board out into it. Lay my body down onto it and paddle out. Feel the cold water slide between my fingers. And another burst of lightning and everything is gray light for just a half a second and I can see that all the tops of rising waves have gotten sharp. Then darkness and the mad clap of thunder and the shockingly dry smell of singed ozone.

My eyes are closed, I realize, but I can smell the cigarette still smoldering slowly in my hand, so I haven’t had them closed for that long, this time. I don’t open my eyes, because why? I wiggle the fingers I have left on my left hand. There’s an itch on one of the fingers I don’t have anymore. It’s seven thousand miles away and so too far to scratch.

Deep breath in through my nostrils, I take in the asphalt smell of 7-11 parking lot. It wasn’t ozone, that I was thinking I was smelling. I don’t know what that smells like. My nose was remembering the smell of sulfur. Or cordite, maybe? Whatever they could get their hands on. Maybe it was the smell of super heated air blasting out at 1,600 feet a second. Or maybe it was the smell of metal shards blowing through the desert heat. The smell of sand mixing with the blood in my mouth. Another crack on lightning behind my eyelids and its not the ocean any more. It’s just all that smoke and someone’s face above my face, screaming at me and I can’t even hear him. Maybe it’s that thick, salty smell of one’s own blood, everywhere, and the numb sensation that something is wrong with this human body.

Deep breath in through the nostrils. My ears hear the ping-ping of the door sensor and I open my eyes and he’s there and he’s just a kid. A teeanger probably. Scruffy face but a lean tan body. He looks at me looking at him. He grins big because he’s stupid, I can tell, and he hollers over, “Cool looking legs, bro.” He hops up into the jeep. Guns it and he’s gone, taking the surfboard with him. My finger still itches.



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