We walked across the beach eating hot chips from newspaper wrappings, lifting each one out and blowing on it ‘til it was just cool enough to eat. Then we licked the ketchup and salt from our fingertips.
It was cold. Bloody cold. The kind of cold that makes your ears ache and your teeth jitter, so we held hands to keep warm. I picked up a tiny shell, all pink and pearlescent with a frilled edge and you found a perfect little pebble, smooth and round. You went down to the water’s edge to wash off the sand and grit and gave it to me.
You told me that the strange, undulating cloud over the pier was a flock of starlings, all flying together, like a puff of black smoke. A murmuration.
There’s a space in-between something happening, and when you find out.
The sun’s light takes 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach us. If the sun suddenly stopped, if it disappeared, if it popped like a lightbulb burning out, we’d be blissfully unaware for 8 minutes and 20 seconds.
And suddenly there was a timeline in my life. A before and after line.
That tiny thread that holds the two halves, that peculiar grey space between knowing and not knowing. 8 minutes, 20 seconds.
But the sun kept shining. There was salt from the chips, or maybe sand, trapped under my thumbnail. I’d kept the round pebble from the shoreline. It weighed down my pocket.
We watched the birds flock around the pier, pretending the world had frozen at 8 minutes 19 seconds, pretending that the sun hadn’t fallen out of our sky.