I Took a Picture of You on the Beach Last Night

You’ll Never See It

Olivia Semple

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You were walking just ahead of me at sunset, closer to the water, your skinny, white chicken-legs sticking out of your dress shirt. You were wearing a straw hat, as old white men on Mexican beaches do.

You walked in the sand as if it were the first time you’d ever been on a beach. When a bigger wave ripped through and you suddenly had water up to your thighs, you stopped, stunned, and looked around you, perplexed. I watched your confusion turn to awe, like a child feeling bubbles around his ankles for the first time. It was as if you hadn’t grown up on a beach — on the other ocean.

Sometimes I wonder whether I’ve spent so much of my life on the Pacific in order to separate from you. To lay claim to my own shore. But then I see you appear there ahead of me. I’m overcome by a desire to chase you, to catch up, and I know it’s my way of staying close.

“Wait!” I called out — in my imagination.

I ran up, and you turned around and said, “Ah! There you are!” as if you’d been waiting.

And you laughed. And I heard that clear as day, echoing through the crashing waves.

It’s in that split-second that my imagination fooled me into believing it was possible. I was compelled to run to you, and simultaneously filled with grief and longing, all over again.

Because I was chasing a ghost.

Why is it that, if it were you, the pressing questions I’d have for you right now would be about men? Probably because I repeatedly choose the ones that are just like you — the lone wolves, the independent spirits. I love them. And yet, I am told not to. I am told these men are unavailable, and that that’s bad.

You’re unavailable. But I wouldn’t sacrifice the quality of the relationship we had for the mere sake of continued availability.

If a great relationship comes with an expiration date, does that reduce its greatness? People seem to think so. I’m decidedly undecided.

This is why I chase sunset ghosts on Mexican beaches. Why I flirt with the idea that maybe it’s you, come to reassure me, somehow, that everything is exactly as it should be.

I took a picture of you on the beach last night. You were just an old white guy with chicken legs sticking out of a long-sleeve dress shirt, traipsing through tide pools looking like a little kid. The sunset looked so much better on my phone than it did in real life.

Phones do crazy things now, Dad. Far cry from that brick you used to have. We make fun of those in movies now. Phones today can take video, answer any question we have, give us directions, teach us languages, even help us find a date.

They can do just about everything. Except call you.

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Olivia Semple

Gypsy lady, chocolate fiend. Forever dizzy at Kierkegaard's abyss. I should be editing my novel but I’m procrastinating here instead.