SHARDS • by Tim Seyfert

I’m alone at the beach. The sky is grey and the sea is blown-out mush. I walk where the sand is dry and scan for sea glass. I scoop up some shards of brown, a few white and one that’s pale green. Soon my pocket is jingling.

I drift down to the shoreline where I sit and spark the smoke I’d rolled earlier. The tide nips at my shoes. I lose some time dazing on my back and eventually notice the sky has become darker. When I next sit up, the tide is far from my feet.

I walk up the beach and come to the street. I walk towards home, even though I don’t want to go there. I blow past my apartment and head to Blinky’s in town.

Inside, two old boys perch at the bar. The rest of the place is a desert. I order a pilsner and sit at a table in the back. I check the widescreen television; it’s sports so I quickly lose interest. Soon all I’m seeing are my thoughts.

I take a pull of beer then burp. I point to the empty chair next to me. “Manners,” I say to the air. Moments later I’m checking if anyone’s watching. No one is. I look back at the empty chair and my mind drifts to the beach.

I was a kid. We sat near the water and ate peanut butter sandwiches. I took a gulp of milk and followed with a belch. My mother smiled as she reminded me about manners. She then stroked the flesh behind my ear – a gesture she’d been doing more since she became sad.

After lunch, I wandered off. I wanted to find her blue sea glass. She once told me it was healing, that “it renewed the soul.” I didn’t find any. When I returned to our spot I found her standing in the water. She was waist deep and still wearing her street clothes. I called out to her, but she didn’t respond. I kept trying until she jolted. She then turned to me, but seemed to look through me. When she came back to shore she said nothing, just took me by the hand and led me to the car. Her grip was cold, but still I held her tight; I didn’t want to let go. A few days later I went to live with my grandmother.

I take another hit of beer and try to purge my mind. I scan the bar for something to focus on. “Pool table. Pool table,” I think, but my heart is jumping out of my throat. I spring up and bump the table with my knee. As I head for the door, I hear glass shatter behind me. I still don’t want to go home, so I head deeper into town. I need noise. I stroll the main drag until the pounding bass from The Sugar Club beckons me.

Sometime around two, I return home with company. The woman I’m with asks to use my shower. She says bar work makes her stink of sweat. She’s older than me and looks Mediterranean. I’ve forgotten her name. I show her the ensuite bathroom then empty my pockets onto the dresser. My wallet and the glass I’d collected spill out into a heap.

The shower turns off and she comes into the bedroom wrapped in my towel. Her hair is dry, but there are drops of water on her shoulders. She says something as she walks to me, but I don’t listen, and for a moment we just stare at each other until I pull her into a kiss.

Afterwards, we lie on our backs, her head on my chest. I’m staring at the ceiling, listening to her breathe. She starts to stroke my face then moves behind my ear and my nerves begin to scream.

“Your heart’s beating fast,” she says.

I take a breath. “We can’t sleep like this,” I say.

Her head lifts.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “We can’t.”

“Can’t what?” she asks.

“I can’t have you sleeping here.”

She sits up, and I feel her glare through the darkness. Silence fills the room until she throws back the covers.

Her naked silhouette pauses in front of the window. “Are you kidding me?” she asks.

She then moves to the bathroom and flips on the light, which spills into the bedroom. She returns with her clothes and throws them onto the bed. She stares at the ground as she fastens her bra.

I get out of bed and go to her, but she shows me her palm and I freeze.

“Don’t,” she says. “Just don’t. I don’t need this shit.” She scoops up the rest of her clothes and leaves the room. I stay put, knowing better than to follow. I hear the rustle of dressing — some zips, the jangle of keys then my front door slams.

I fall back onto my bed and stare at the ceiling.

My alarm jolts me awake, and before my eyes even open I’m planning the sick-call to work. I kill the alarm then roll to my side. I look out the window. Rays of light pour through the open blinds. One of them hits my dresser. The glass I’d collected sparkles in the light, turning the brown shards orange, while the whites glisten like diamonds. I then notice the one shard of green sitting separate from the pile, only under the light it’s translucent blue. I stare at it for a while, and as I do, I melt into my bed.

Tim Seyfert is an American writer and screen actor currently based in the United Kingdom.

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