THE GIRL ON THE BEACH • by Ben Langdon

I sit on the board with my legs drifting up and down in time with the swell. I’ve been here for an hour and a half and in that time there haven’t been any good waves: just a few scrappy ones, but none to get excited about. On the shore, spread out like a road accident, lies my girlfriend. Her legs are angled in unnatural ways so that from out here by the break it looks like she’s broken.

I used to love her, I think.

Her skin was warm and smelled of strawberries, but now I can’t stand it. When I’m near her she changes, becomes this monster who only looks like the girl I met last Christmas. She’s always touching me, always keeping me within range, under tabs.

Below the water to my left I see the billowing tail of seaweed streaming out to the open sea. Even as my eyes drift to the shifting darkness of the weed, I feel more of it under my board, sludging by my bare feet. The rational part of my brain knows it’s seaweed, but I pull my feet up in a burst, my heart racing with images of fins and teeth.

It takes some time to calm the hammering in my chest, and rub away the goosebumps along my arms. But eventually I do, and then I sit on my board with my feet out of the water, knees to my chin as I watch her on the beach.

She’s moved on to her belly, her legs swinging idly as she listens to some pop track on her over-sized, retro headphones.

I have to move up the beach, get a different perspective. With my feet back in the water I paddle along the unformed swell. I feel the seaweed again, grabbing for me. It’s like her slipping her arm over my shoulder and around the back of my neck. Her fingers play in my hair, teasing but also showing ownership. Her hands move like the seaweed, entangling me.

I pull my feet up again and sit there bobbing on the board. This is getting ridiculous.

I have to get away.

But the only place I can feel safe is in the ocean, beyond the break. She hates the water: it terrifies her.

And if I don’t move, if I don’t get away from her, she’ll take everything. She’ll slide her arms around me so tight that there won’t be anything left of me for me. I’ll become her handbag, her funny story, her accessory, her conquest.

My eyes drift up the cliffs towards the carpark.

I wonder whether it’s possible to scoot up the beach and climb the steps to the car without her seeing me.

The idea of driving back to the city alone, with control over the radio and control over me, is suddenly intoxicating, and I can’t stop grinning at the possibility.

But I won’t put my feet back in the water yet.

Not yet.

A high school teacher by day, aspiring writer by night; Ben Langdon lives in the seaside town of Narrawong in Victoria, Australia.

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