I recognise the young woman causing the holdup at the checkout, from the local paper. Her husband drowned while they were out walking at the coast not long back, something to do with trying to rescue a dog.
Behind me in the queue a mother and daughter cradle their magazines in coral talons, haemorrhaging perfume. “She’s forgotten what, like, four whole numbers? Brilliant.”
Frowning, the young widow stirs the air above the keypad with a finger, like a kid invited to choose just one chocolate from the tray. In the paper it said that she had been married for exactly eight days.
She tucks a crescent of dark hair behind her ear and looks up obliquely, as if she has heard someone call out a name that might be hers.
The man in front of me sighs, turning. He has a net of vegetables slumped in his arms, and a delicate riot of capillaries across his face. Raised eyebrows admit this to be a minor urgency, though one still big enough to share: “Some people. You do wonder what is actually going up there, in their little heads.”
The bite of salt in the air; the rumble of the breakers, like bricks falling in a chimney.
The expression on her husband’s face as he dips from view between swells — that watchful, uncertain look, the same one he has when crossing the road. The way his soaking hair stands up at the back like that, boyish.
Or the first time they met, when her touch made him lose his balance. Then that hot night in the beer garden — before they were even going out together — when he snapped her cigarette and told her “I want you alive.”
The heart in her throat thumping to be let out, like it belongs somewhere else.
A spot of colour high on each cheek, she gives up, slides her card from the machine. Behind me the mother and daughter murmur in unison, “Finally.”
Trembling on the sand, the dog vomits creamy coils of seawater.
And the plump girl on the till smiles at the near horizon, and swallows another yawn.
dekhelia writes in a van. With the engine running and the heater on.