She met him while jogging at the beach. “Met” was a small word to use for it; in her memories, that day would always be four or five syllables, not just one bitter bite. He was at the beach first — she did not know how long and never will — and she walked up to him. Her feet kept moving as she stood in place. He looked up at her like looking into the sun: face to her but eyes to the sea.
“What are you doing?” she asked, skipping a glance from his hands and what they grasped to his hair, long and dark and gnarled, like dead seaweed.
“Sifting,” he replied, and held up the flash of metal, which when she focused on looked like a medieval torture device, so she just quirked her brow and kept staring.
He continued, “I am sifting the beach.”
Neither one spoke for a long moment. Her feet shifted in the damp sand, a forgotten jog stretching along the coast as she watched a black lab’s paws wet with ocean. He placed the metal implement back into the small pit he had created, scooping out part of the world, and letting it all fall back.
His face turned up to hers again, the briefest of blue sparked her way before his eyes were off west and further. There were tiny lines around his lashes, and she felt a pang of missing them, and him, but they had just met. She imagined those lines were indicative of a laugh that bent his whole face up in its power, a laugh like origami with wax paper, like creases in warm cotton.
When he spoke again, she had forgotten her own question, so lost in reverie of fake memory of this man she did not know.
“I am looking for a grain of sand,” he said, and she saw tiny circles darken the beach below his face.
So she ran, she kept on running, north along the water, and she didn’t know when she would stop or how she would get off the beach without seeing him again. Maybe she would stay on this beach forever, trapped between drowning and disappointing, her sure footfalls a pulse, reminding her that she was still alive.
That he was too.