f i c t i o n m a t s n a p p
They were wondering things, and sitting with their feet up. They were young that summer. Old enough to have moved far away from everything they knew, old enough to have credit cards; young enough to drink ambivalently on weeknights. Three young people with names but no addresses, sun-kissed and grinning, miles from responsibility, hours outside of any obligation. All three of them one month past college and wondering things, sitting with their feet up.
Some of it they wondered out loud.
“What do you think about the water, how much of it is there? Really?” Alexander asked.
“I think there’s a lot of it, a whole lot.” Veronica nodded and watched the ocean, lapping against itself, against the sand, against the stone patio where they sat, watching the horizon wrap itself around them.
“Are you looking for a number in gallons?” Martina asked.
“Any usable comparison will do, I suppose,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of it, a whole lot,” Veronica said again, smiling with her sunglasses crooked, her eyebrows raised.
“I think you’re right,” Martina said.
“And the sun, is it going to do this every night?” Alexander motioned to it like something hiding in a corner. It had slipped while they were sitting, falling out of the sky and behind the island of Lanai. For a moment, a bright one that they sat through with sunglasses, it looked perched on top of that floating green hill; perched like a round white cookie in the middle of a mint sundae.
“It must,” Martina said. She’d finished her cocktail and cracked the ice in her molars. The ice was blue like the water over the reef, tainted that way from silly sugary sweet blue alcohol that made tourists wiggle. She’d taken the pink orchid from the rim of the glass and placed it behind her ear, the shiny black of her hair pulling the flower’s color out like lipstick in the dark.
Hers was a wild search for things to make her parents question her sense of good judgement, a rebellious shred of youth she wasn’t willing to surrender quite yet. Moving to an island instead of law clerking was one of these instances. In saying her goodbyes the night before her flight, Martina and a young man she enjoyed kissing drank too much red wine and skipped the intensely organized packing session she’d planned in order to listen to Chet Baker and make slow, sad love on her living room floor.
For this reason and others including the alarm clock being neglected, Martina arrived on her new island home with a headache, three swimsuits, eight pairs of socks, a handful of t-shirts and jeans, one pair of sunglasses and two copies of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
“No,” Alexander said. “I mean, the earth is spinning and moving all the time. This we know.”
“It most certainly is,” Veronica pushed her sunglasses up to her forehead and rubbed salt from her eyes. Her eyes were green, like old five dollar bills, an odd color for someone with hair that light. The three had been in the water earlier because that’s what one does when they are young and have a new body of water to splash about in. Salt from the water felt native like a thin coat of varnish.
“Spinning right now as a matter of fact,” Martina added.
“Okay, and if we’re spinning and moving still, which we’ve established, will the sun end up setting into the water south of Lanai in, I don’t know, four months? Or does it just dive right there behind the island in the same place every night?” Alexander wore no shirt because it was finally legal and acceptable to do this. The tops of his shoulders and feet were pink like Easter. His hair, a shaggy brown mess, held sand at its roots - a perpetual fact of beach life he was excited to entertain.
“I can’t think in three dimensions,” Veronica said.
“I’d need a pencil,” Martina said. “Or two tomatoes, my dad taught me the solar system with tomatoes.”
“Tennis balls for me, and it was my science teacher, Mr. Canduce,” Veronica said.
“Canduce, that’s a hell of a name,” Alexander said.
“He was a good teacher, used to bring raw oysters for lunch though, and that grossed me out. You don’t show seventh graders how to eat oysters, especially not in Catholic school,” Veronica said. She re-crossed her legs on the railing next to the table. All their other friends had called her Ronnie for short. Alexander called her Vee. She played volleyball through college and had shoulders that pop and legs that just didn’t seem to end. They’re so long, she often said to boys when she’d had too much to drink, that it takes two people to shave them.
Martina and Alexander laughed, thinking about seventh grade. He had played basketball in seventh grade because everyone was allowed to make the team. He’d scored ten points all season.
In college Alexander studied accounting and finance, but didn’t major in it. He majored in hotel management instead, largely because a girl in his hall freshman year was too pretty to talk to. He took all the same classes with her, and finally they had a conversation about something other than the food and beverage program or finding the right contractors to maintain the grounds. The conversation went like this:
“I hate hotels, everything about them,” she said. Her name was Amanda Reynolds. Amanda hated hotels.
“Why are you trying to manage them then?”
“I didn’t know what else to study,” she said.
Amanda Reynolds. The most gorgeous person he’d ever had a conversation with. And that’s all she had been.
“You know what I’m thinking?” Martina said.
“I have no way of knowing that,” Alexander said.
Veronica had been tracing circles on the wood grain of the table with her finger, moving the condensation from her drink round and round. The darker black of the night sky had begun creeping over their umbrella and would soon take the light from the clouds. An attractive employee of the waterfront restaurant, wearing plain white shoes, her legs tanned like bottles of cocoa butter, lit tiki torches to the excitement of all who sat nearby.
“I’m thinking it will set in a different place later in the year. I hope it sets in the water eventually, I like it when the sun sets in the water,” Martina said.
“We could just go down to Kihei and watch it set in the water, couldn’t we?” Veronica said.
“We could, it wouldn’t be the same, we don’t live in Kihei. You have to watch the sun set where you live or it’s not the same. It’s just a postcard if you go somewhere else,” she said.
“I’ll bet you it sets farther north,” Alexander said.
“How do you figure?” Martina pulled her feet from the railing and tilted her head to the side as if looking at the sun angled would give her insight to its eventual path. Her flip flops were covered in sand and would be for the next six months. She’d cut her big toe on the coral during the splashing, and had purposely gone without a band-aid.
“I’m not figuring anything, I’m just guessing, like you,” he said.
“Okay, it’s a bet,” Martina put her feet back on the railing, cracked another cube of blue ice in her teeth.
“How will we know who wins?” Alexander said.
“We’ll just have to keep an eye on the sunset. Watch it every night if we have to. See where she goes,” Martina said.
“I can do that,” Veronica said.
“I wonder what it looks like underwater,” Alexander said. “When the sun sets into the water, I wonder what it looks like.”
“Bright, I think, like a light bulb,” Martina said.
“I can’t think underwater,” Veronica said.
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