There once was a man who fell in love with the sea. When he woke in bed at night, he did not look at his wife. He did not touch the thighs that he had been given by her, or gaze with desire at the nipples that had hardened in the cold that the wind brought in. He rose instead, slipped out of the white sheets, and went to the window. He listened to the waves; he watched them as they hit the shore. The moon appeared in patches on the surface, and he wished that he could be the moon, spreading skin against skin.

After many nights of gazing, he could not wait any more. For the first time in a long time, he looked at his wife after waking. In the darkness, he made out what he could of her: the gleam of her teeth, wet with the spit that had come from behind them, her dark long legs tangled in the whiteness of the sheets. He did not kiss her. He did not want to wake her. He did not light a candle, and walked slowly, to be sure that when he walked upon the floorboards, they would not make their noise. When he reached the beach, the sand was wet and sank below his steps. When he reached the dock, it was slick and moaned beneath him. As he touched the water, he took a breath and closed his eyes.

In the meantime, his wife was dreaming. She dreamt of him, of how loving he had been in the forest where they had met, in the time before they had gone to make their living by the sea. She remembered how he called her “flower”; she remembered how she called him “bee.” When the winter wind broke into the room, it suddenly awakened her. For a moment she had forgotten of his loss of love, and touched her hand to the mattress where he should have been. The imprint of his body was still there, but he was not. In the darkness, she looked for him, but she could not find the familiar shape. She made an effort to return to sleep, but the cold would not allow it.

She rose from bed, the sheets wrapped like a coat around her. Something in the sea, perhaps the something that had always drawn him, drew her toward it. She rubbed her fingers together as she walked, and felt the grains of sand that had collected beneath her nails. She smelled the sea, tasted the rot that drifted in from the canneries, no matter how often they were cleaned. She lifted her face out the window and looked. She saw what she always saw: the town, the docks, the moon, the sea. She closed her eyes. Thinking of him, she licked her lips and tasted the salt and the water. As she touched herself, she took a breath and closed her eyes.

Photo by The Webhamster

Elisa Fernández-Arias

ELISA FERNÁNDEZ-ARIAS lives in Paris, France, where she writes and teaches English as a second language. Her work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Portland Review flash fiction feature, New Delta Review, Cream City Review, and Berkeley Fiction Review, among other journals. She has worked with magazines and journals including The New Yorker, Apogee, and Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. She has taught writing to all ages, including classes at Columbia University. This May, Elisa completed her MFA in fiction and translation at Columbia’s creative writing program, where she received the De Alba and Chair’s Fellowships to subsidize her studies. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel.

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