The waves ambitiously approach, and then they softly sweep away all the imperfections left in the sand. A spiky shell, mangled strands of seaweed, or maybe a bag of chips that’s been blown across the beach. All of these can disappear in a second, all traces forgiven and erased in one sweep.
And that is exactly why I find this place so pitiful, misleading, and wretched. And yet, I can’t escape it.
Not just yet.
It seems that as soon as my husband and I saw the listing, we fell in love with the cozy two-bedroom cottage on the pale sands of Lake Michigan and were moved in only days later. Three years have passed since then, and I can’t seem to unload the damn thing.
We fixed it up, both inside and out. He added a two-car garage, and I’d like to think that I helped increase it’s value by outfitting each room with bits and pieces to create an eclectic, coastal vibe. Even through my bitterness, I can’t deny that we created a beautiful home, a definite steal at the price I’m asking too. I’ve met with prospective buyers, eager buyers, but somehow, no one has taken the bait. In the seven months I’ve had it listed, no fewer than thirty people have stopped by. Eventually, it got to the point that I sought the expertise of a realtor, something I was convinced I’d never have to do.
Barbara is her name. She’s older, bolder, and wiser than me. Only two times did I show the house with her by my side before she tactfully told me that I’m, essentially, scaring away new tenants. So, per her request, I take a lengthy stroll on the beach while she sells people on a lifestyle I want no part of anymore.
Every walk is the same. If the sun was burning me during one walk and I was being pelted with hail on the next, I would know no different.
Kicking the stones and broken shells ahead of me before they pierce my foot, I look out past the rolling waves until the misty breeze spits in my face. Returning my gaze back to the ground, I walk right on boundary of wet and dry sand. Sometimes I think I do it in hopes that the waves might take me away, much like they did the traces of my marriage.
We moved here newlyweds. A day never went by that we weren’t running through the water, rolling around in the sand, or watching the silhouettes of freighters against the sunset. Often, we would just stand, him holding me from behind with our ankles deep in the water. With each wave, the sand beneath us would slide away, grain-by-grain, and we would sink deeper into the lake. In those moments, the pulsing tide was the only indication that time wasn’t frozen.
As I walk down the lonely shoreline, I’m always subconsciously looking for the same thing. A footprint that hasn’t washed away, his necklace lying in the sand, or remnants of the grainy sculptures he used to make to impress me. The breeze whips through the dune grass, and along with the clapping waves and the squeaking seagulls, there’s so much noise that I can hear almost anything.
the sound of him laughing
our footsteps thumping across the spongy sand
Then there are times I hear him whisper. Between the notes of the coast’s serenade, he always says the same thing.
“I’m still here.”
I used to believe it, so much that I would look around, running up and down the dunes to find him. Eventually, I came to accept that the lake was lying to me. Guilty from its broken promise.
It still lies, and I curse it every time.
It won’t admit the truth. That it took what was left of my husband and never gave it back. After his heart attack, after the funeral, the least that lake could do was to leave his last footprint.
But its greedy little waves stole that from me as quickly as they did his last breath.