Fiction IMG_0036

Published on February 27th, 2013 | by Mallory Nezam



I stand at the edge where the water meets the shore, toes curled as the misty cold rolls in. My reflection in the water, your reflection in the water, a reflection bobbed back and forth. The sea has a way of coming and going and coming back again, leaving us with nothing.

“Don’t ask me questions,” you said. “Just quiet down.” So I left that night. No door slamming. Hush. A train rolled by.

I squint to find stillness but it never comes. It is quiet but it is not still.

Halfway up the shore a seagull sits on a rock and ruffles its feathers. The rocks are rubbed smooth by the gliding water, like a shoe shine.

My feet begin to dig into the sand with the pull of the receding tide. I am slowly rooted down, accepted into the earth, but suddenly thrown off balance and taken into the sea – one swift gesture of Yes and then No.

And in front, again, the vastness layed out on the line. Nothing to hide. What if I blink? Would it come back again? If I blinked would I miss you like a siren surging from the break and then back again?

I lay out the rocks, the flattest ones and then the roundest.


Then again, he hadn’t told her the truth. He hadn’t told anyone the truth.

Dante watched the baby as it crawled around in the sand, slapping the denser pools of water. He has been embarrassed to admit to Marleen how much courage it had taken to come here. Then again, he hadn’t told her the truth. He hadn’t told anyone the truth. His lawyer had said it was okay because at this point, it was a matter of ‘personal choice.’ It isn’t about the truth anymore, he rationed. That was gone. Marleen sunbathed with her top clasps undone, although it was overcast.

It seemed to him like she was egging him on to feel that she just didn’t get it. Little Simon dug fiercely with a stick, carving out an incongruous trench.

“You ought to have a big brimmed hat on at this rate,” Dante called over the sound of the waves. She didn’t hear him but threw her head back in middle class exasperation. He turned back to the sea.

Marleen’s sudden break from her job allowed the perfect time for the trip they had been wanting to take. Their lifestyle was more lavish now and it seemed necessary to vacation abroad after being together for six months. Greece in the spring sounded appropriately pampering except it had been dark and blustery every day, taunting the edges of a storm. They hadn’t bothered to check the weather.

Dante’s son came with them. He was only 22 months old, not quite ready to be left with his grandmother for a week. Plus, he was rather attached to his father and vice versa. Marleen just barely rolled her eyes when Dante initiated the discussion to bring Simon. Dante didn’t notice.

He felt that this secret was hidden even from himself, the image of his wife fading and rolling in and out like the tide, never quite complete, always eluding.

Yes, Dante had a small secret. But didn’t everybody? he told himself. He felt that this secret was hidden even from himself, the image of his wife fading and rolling in and out like the tide, never quite complete, always eluding. She was 33, just barely. They’d celebrated her birthday on a rooftop a month before. He and their friends had surprised her with her favorite champagne and a lobster dinner atop their Brookyn loft. Dante remembered removing a strand of hair from her lip after she laughed her boisterous laugh. That full feeling when she gave herself up completely. This is how he prefers to remember her. Otherwise, he is starting at gaping holes in a narrative that seems less and less real.

Dante liked to imagine that it happened like this: that she climbed up a tall cliff in the distance. On a windy day her hair and her skirt billowed violently; she had to squint to see. On this day it was sunny and her legs glistened like porcelain, throwing the sun back at itself. She took a long breath, and she lifted her arms up like a gymnast, as if she was reaching. Flicked her wrists and jumped high into the air, dove swiftly into the sea; returning home.

He bit his lip and turned back to the scene of his now constructed family that felt flat. Simon was up and running, a fearless spirit that yelled at seagulls and ran until he fell. He had learned so many things from his almost two year old son that every adult around him had forgotten. He began to see the layers of forgottenness everywhere as it surfaced like lichen on beach rock.

But the opposite of forgottenness isn’t remembrance. It is divulgence.

Marleen had appeared to him like a hazy dream two weeks after his wife’s funeral. She had approached him at a gas pump about his latest piece of writing.

“Why the change?”

“No change,” he replied blankly.


I bend down and let my hands graze the water. There is no one else around; I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt wholly alone like this. And then, an image flickers in my memory. I am six years old and I have constructed a diorama for class out of beach rocks and seaweed, made to resemble our cottage. I had collected these on the only vacation we would ever take: the seacoast of Maine.

I find my father with Inés, folded over her and sweaty. The look in his eyes.

I will never see my mother again and my father will not explain. A silence in the house, even when Inés moves in. My diorama is dumped in the trash per my father’s request. I ask, “Where mother will live, then?” I am forever told that I am her spitting image, her long brown hair, her tiny waist.

On the beach I notice how quiet it is. It is so quiet.


Dante pulled out a cigarette and let it hang from his lips. His chest hair looked comical like something out of a cartoon, spirally and erratic. He felt stupid. Marleen looked wonderful. She did so well at looking wonderful.

He reached over and caressed her arm. She had her eye on Simon and the baby sang and bent down to collect shells. He realized it was hard to feel a complete sense of belonging anywhere.

Dante couldn’t remember when his wife had started to disappear.

Marleen turned to expose her back to the sun and groaned. Dante couldn’t remember when his wife had started to disappear. He had been working too many long hours. He had been traveling a lot.

But, no; she had started to go away sooner. When they had started a family. When Simon came along. She became skittish and despondent. What was it that I missed? What was it that I got wrong? He had asked himself these questions till he was blue in the face, sometimes keeping him up at night as he lay next to Marleen.

Then Simon dropped his shells and sprang up, transfixed on the horizon. Dante, too, craned his neck to look past his son.

The faint light reflected off of her, the only thing in the expanse of blue that lay before them, giving her the luminescence of the moon.

The faint light reflected off of her, the only thing in the expanse of blue that lay before them, giving her the luminescence of the moon. He had never seen her like this: the utter peacefulness of floating and the limitlessness of the sea. It wrapped around her like a robe, like a train. She flapped a fin to the water and leapt up, quietly descending back down. The ripples bloomed around where she had been.

Simon stood with his mouth agape and then began to giggle, smack his hands together. “Mermaid,” he gurgled in between laughs. Simon pointed and looked at his dad. He wanted him to know that nothing had been his fault.

“Oh, good,” Marleen said, turning her head in his direction and resting the opposite cheek. “Simon’s learning big words.”

Dante nodded his head to his son who turned back to the sea. Would ‘mermaid’ mean ‘mother’ now? he feared, but then he didn’t. Mermaid was good. Perhaps it was better.

Simon went back to stacking his shells and Dante took the limp cigarette out of his mouth, tasted sand on the tongue. He hated that.

The wind picked up and they had to throw out the sandwiches they’d made for the day. Instead, they stopped at a roadside shack, sauce dripping into their laps as the light began to wane on the ride back.


I stroll westward toward the lighthouse, toward the setting sun. There is nothing to be moving for and there is no reason to run. So I stop.

When I leave this beach maybe I will become stardust or a Joshua tree.

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About the Author

Mallory’s creativity takes on various forms. Currently, she instigates whimsical interactions in public spaces. She is driven by a passion for cultivating the creative capacities of people who think they aren’t creative. Mallory believes that sustainable and holistic change can come about when that change happens in people first, and that compulsion moves from there into their communities, and sometimes even further. Mallory has lived all over the world but prefers to return to the unassuming St. Louis where she spends her days teaching yoga, running STL Improv Anywhere, producing events and collaborating with incredible beings to elevate her city. She is inspired by public transportation, 7:15pm, rooftops, grit and her mom. Mallory is a graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles and The Community Arts Training Institute, St. Louis.

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