WALKING ON WATER • by Sree Sen Bhasin

Bill died early Saturday morning. He wanted chicken tortilla soup for lunch. His fever was gone and his throat was just a little scratchy. We were advised home quarantine since his COVID symptoms were mild. He tested positive and I was negative. We watched Pride and Prejudice on Friday night in two different rooms. Bill wasn’t particularly fond of Jane Austin. He wanted to watch Tiger King on Netflix but it was my weekend to choose the entertainment. He woke up at 4 am, gasping for breath. His eyes were narrow slits, his chest wincing. They were loading him into the ambulance when a retching sound came up his throat and his head rolled to a side.

It’s a Sunday morning and I am driving to our condo on the Texas gulf coast after two weeks of living alone and another negative test. It’s a lovely condo with lime-green walls, chair rails and white quartz countertops. I bought the heron painting in the living room from a local artist.

Bill loved Mustang Island. He called the Texas beaches humble. We had been going there for the last ten years. The beaches are simple; nothing lush about the brown sand powdered by thousands of years of drought. The water is turgid with clay. Tiny seagulls clip clop over wet sand. Stranded jellyfish quiver, translucent skin stretching over a balloon body. Dunes rise up with yellow clumps of desiccated flowers, spindly bulrush stand within. A sign outside the condo says — Rattle Snakes in the dunes.

I drive on humped bridges and causeways, crossing over still water like tinted slate. An old oilfield channel runs to the Laguna Madre; flats and potholes on both sides.

Withered Pelicans doze on white markers on the shallow water. A man paints a sign on the door of a restaurant shack, his brush curling over the letters. Rectangular homes on stills, painted pink and blue slide through curtains of Palms on land away.

“I am so sorry, Mrs. Fox,” Maggie, the manager, says when she receives me. She hands me a box of doughnuts. I open the door and step into the foyer; the waves leap up white just below the balcony overlooking the beach. Bill and I drank coffee on the tall white chairs there. I drank lots of red wine there after my mother died. Bill sat next to me and held my hand. He knew how not to say things after 30 years of being together.

In the night a full moon rises; an enormous moon. I sit at the balcony; everything glows in luminous silver. Waves in ductile steel coil and uncoil in vanishing patterns. A white veil of clouds streams across the sky like a pale chiffon scarf. Beacons on the oil rigs throb where the ocean meets the sky. The moon slips down little by little.

I sit all night, waiting for them to appear. They come out on silver nights like this.

They gather at the edge of the swirling foam. They laugh, hold hands and walk on water.

Moonlight drizzles over them like snow. They don’t stay for long.

My nostrils ache from the sharp wind, my eyes tear up. The beach is empty; the sand is white with light. Clouds rise over the moon, a momentary darkness. I hear faint murmurs, a distant laughter. Shadows thicken over the dunes. I wait. When the moon finally slides into the ocean, Bill may walk on water.

I’ll wave to him and shout Goodbye my love.

Sree Sen Bhasin is an advocate of education technology and a writer with a fondness for cross-cultural stories. She lives in Austin, Texas. She recently completed her debut novel. Her stories of ‘Take a leap, Build something, Raise a village’ are on her blog — sreeatlarge.com.

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