Layers

I see her standing by the edge of the water. She’s staring at the ground where the water keeps creeping up and brushing over her bare feet, then slipping away again. Her hands are clenched, and a sheet of hair hides her face. I wonder what she’s thinking. Then she looks up and stares straight at me. She isn’t that far away, and I can see her eyes clearly. I can see them, but they’re clouded and dark and complicated. They’re like whirlpools, dragging me in. For just a minute, I let myself get pulled in and read what is written in the darkness.

At first I just see anger. She’s yelling, turning away from someone. She looks so upright in her anger, as if she’s never felt any uncertainty that she has a right to be angry. I observe in calm judgement. She walks away from the person behind her, her footsteps quick, distinct, and slightly irregular.

Then she’s by herself, the tinges of anger still stretching the lines around her mouth. But then the lines slip away and settle in different places. She looks different. If it was her purpose, the anger certainly worked well as a mask. Now her eyes are dark and downturned and sad. Almost as soon as she closes the door behind herself, she collapses on the floor as if she doesn’t know how to stand up anymore. A disconnected part of my mind observes that at least she’s on her knees now. But she’s crying and it’s messy, and her face looks like her heart is broken and it’s trying to leave scars upon her soul. I shrink back, not knowing what to do. Maybe I’m not expected to help her, but her pulsating emotions have a hold on me and I can’t look away even if I want to. She reaches out a desperate, tense hand to me, her face contorted, her mouth stretched in a way it shouldn’t be. “Help me,” she gasps past the sobs rolling through her body. I can’t help it; I jerk backwards.

I’ve fallen out of her eyes and I’m on the beach again. The girl is gone. I twist around, confused, searching for her. She isn’t anywhere. The only thing around me is the ground, stretching pale and hot under my feet. I stare at the sand where the water keeps creeping up and brushing over my bare feet, then slipping away again. My hair is falling across my face like a curtain. Suddenly I realize. I sink down onto my knees, the sobs ripping out of my chest. My legs are sandy and wet, my hands covering my face are wet and stiff with salt. How is this me? Slowly, painfully, I stop crying. I realize there’s a stone clutched in my tense fist. I stand, and throw it as hard as I can into the water. Then I walk away, my steps quick, distinct, and slightly irregular.

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