July 1K 2014

Molly Wizenberg | Photograph

David Huffman | Words

“This is bad,” he said, treading water and catching glimpses of the beach over the breakers. Far beyond the breakers. Way farther or further than he’d planned. The family was there—small neon dots lounging, reading, digging, crossword puzzling, none of them noticing he’d swam way too far out to sea. Anyway, no one watches out for the adults at the beach. Everyone watches out for the kids. Adults are responsible and won’t swim out too far.
Typically.

The tide must have come in a bit while he was swimming, but now his arms were getting weak, and his lungs hurt a little. And he was just treading. All he wanted was to swim with dolphins.

And to get away from his brother. Damn him.

“So what are you doing with your life, kiddo,” he’d asked out of nowhere.

“Don’t call me kiddo I’m older than you, and this is a vacation. Surviving this family reunion is work enough without your life questions.”

To that he’d said, “Jesus,” and raised his eyebrows high up over his dumb eyes. “You do need to relax.”

“I don’t need any life coaching is all.”

He didn’t acknowledge this last statement, but the cogs were turning, and clearly all the things he wanted to say burned in his throat. It was impending. No matter how cool he was playing it.

Dolphins broke the surface and slipped back under in rhythmic patterns, taking turns making gray arcs on the horizon. Dolphins don’t judge.

“It never hurts to take stock of your life. Where you’re going. Where you’ve been. Where you are.” The words burst from his mouth, over his newspaper, and buzzed around like seagulls do an old lady holding a loaf of bread. “I’m sorry that I went to college, got a degree, got a job in the field I studied, got married, bought a house, had kids, and am living the dream. I didn’t do it to spite you.”

“That last part was the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me, and the bar was high.”

“You’re chasing your tail in circles. You’re trapped in a vicious cycle.”

“It’s vicious circle.”

“You’re an ass.”

“You are.”

“This is supposed to be fun, and you’re upsetting mom.”

“See. Taking stock of my life does hurt after all, kiddo.”

Brother went back to his paper, but he wasn’t reading it. He’d been staring at the same page for twenty minutes now.

More dolphins, and no one else seemed to care.

“It’s just that we’re all worried about you.”

“All of you?”

“No one’s saying life is easy. Or that there’s one answer for everyone. But you have to eventually…I don’t know…stick with something. There’s a million things. Just pick one.”

“Why?”

Why?

“Yeah.”

“Michael…” His mouth hung open, and if Michael had a breadcrumb he’d toss it right in there to see if a seagull would dive-bomb his brother’s stupid mouth. “…Michael you’re impossible.”

“You are,” said Michael and squinted at the dolphins.

“Tell me one thing you’d like to do.”

“One thing?”

“One.”

“Just one?”

“Out of all the things in the goddamned universe.”

“Swim with the dolphins.”

“Jesus. What dolphins?”

Michael pointed to the finned humps just past the surf, but his brother wasn’t even facing the water because he honestly didn’t give a shit about anything.

“Fine. Go swim with the dolphins,” his brother said.
Michael leapt to his feet and sprinted into the water. Everyone looks like an idiot while running through water, but he beat it and dove under the first wave. He came up for air and slipped under the second, paddling after the open-minded dolphins. Two waves later he’d passed the breakers, and he was alone. Either he’d scared the dolphins away or they were more exclusive than he’d thought. He looked back to the beach. Way back.

“This is bad,” he said, treading water and catching glimpses of the beach over the breakers. Far beyond the breakers. Way farther or further than he’d planned. The family was there—small neon dots lounging, reading, digging, crossword puzzling, none of them noticing he’d swam way too far out to sea. Anyway, no one watches out for the adults at the beach. Everyone watches out for the kids. Adults are responsible and won’t swim out too far.
Typically.

The tide must have come in a bit while he was swimming, but now his arms were getting weak, and his lungs hurt a little. And he was just treading. All he wanted was to swim with dolphins.

And to get away from his brother. Damn him.

“So what are you doing with your life, kiddo,” he’d asked out of nowhere.

“Don’t call me kiddo I’m older than you, and this is a vacation. Surviving this family reunion is work enough without your life questions.”

To that he’d said, “Jesus,” and raised his eyebrows high up over his dumb eyes. “You do need to relax.”

“I don’t need any life coaching is all.”

He didn’t acknowledge this last statement, but the cogs were turning, and clearly all the things he wanted to say burned in his throat. It was impending. No matter how cool he was playing it.

Dolphins broke the surface and slipped back under in rhythmic patterns, taking turns making gray arcs on the horizon. Dolphins don’t judge.

“It never hurts to take stock of your life. Where you’re going. Where you’ve been. Where you are.” The words burst from his mouth, over his newspaper, and buzzed around like seagulls do an old lady holding a loaf of bread. “I’m sorry that I went to college, got a degree, got a job in the field I studied, got married, bought a house, had kids, and am living the dream. I didn’t do it to spite you.”

“That last part was the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me, and the bar was high.”

“You’re chasing your tail in circles. You’re trapped in a vicious cycle.”

“It’s vicious circle.”