(5 minute read)
by Peter Stavros
“I just need to be by the water,” Sadie says as we sit out on the patio, after dinner and our evening walk, watching the burnt orange sun descend beyond the wavering elm trees that separate our property from our neighbor’s. “That’s all I need—just the water.”
Sadie’s been feeling gravity’s pull, again, I can tell—I can always tell—how she gets, sort of retreats within herself, with a faraway gaze like she’s somewhere else.
“The water,” I say. “What water?” I ask, and I take a sip of my beer, a summer shandy though I’m not a summer shandy person—give me an IPA—but Sadie bought these this afternoon, her “accomplishment for the day,” her words, and so I thought I’d give one a try but it’s not for me.
“Any water,” Sadie answers with a huff as if it’s a stupid question, and maybe it is, but maybe I want to hear Sadie explain it. “The ocean, a lake—whatever.”
“What about that river in Asheville where we took up stand-up paddleboarding?”
“Anything,” Sadie says, as she finishes her summer shandy with a satisfied swig and reaches down and pulls another from the cooler that she brought out here so we wouldn’t have to traipse back and forth into the house for beer. “I can breathe when I’m by the water,” Sadie goes on, and she sits back in her chaise lounge and stretches out and the bottoms of her feet are dirty because she’s been walking around without shoes, ignoring my admonition to be careful because there are breaks in the brick patio and I wouldn’t want her to step on a sharp rock. “It’s like . . .” Sadie takes a breath, and holds it for a beat. “When I’m by the water, I can feel the anxiety wash off me.”
“Not anxiety,” Sadie attempts to brush it aside with a wave of her hand, and I notice she’s not wearing her wedding band. “I just get out of sorts sometimes. It’s natural. It happens. I’m not Superman.” She sighs. “There’s so much … you know—in the world.” Sadie shrugs. “Maybe I need to get out more, like before.” She takes a swallow of beer, and narrows her eyes as if to contemplate. Then softer, lower, “The water.”
I nod like I understand—and I understand—and it gets quiet as I think about what Sadie has said and Sadie stares off into the distance, into the back corner of the backyard where a rabbit has shyly emerged under the broken dividing fence to snack on wild clover that has grown up in clumps because the grass needs cutting and I haven’t had a chance to do it yet, what with everything. I’d ask Sadie to do it, since she’s here all day now anyway, but I know where the tree roots and divots and chipmunk holes are, and the last time Sadie cut the grass she broke the blade and nearly sliced off her leg. So I make a mental note to cut the grass this weekend.
“Okay, well let’s do that,” I say to break the silence, and because I think we should do that because if that will help Sadie then of course I’m all for it.
“Yeah,” Sadie says, though not convincing. “We’ll see.”
“No,” I say, and I lean in to show that I mean it. “I mean it. We always say we’ll see, but nothing ever happens. Let’s really do this. The water. Let’s pick a place and go.”
Sadie doesn’t say anything. She just subtly nods her head as she continues to watch that rabbit, and I start to watch it too, and it’s kind of mesmerizing, and calming in a way.
“So what do you say?” I leave the rabbit and return to Sadie. “Is that a deal?”
“That’s a deal,” Sadie says and I’m not sure if she’s just repeating me or if she’s serious.
“Let’s look tonight,” I say as I finish my summer shandy and force myself not to make a face with that last sour swallow because I know that Sadie likes these and she can have the rest—just not tonight. “The ocean. A lake. That river in Asheville. Whatever.” I wait for something from Sadie, and when I don’t get anything I say, “Huh?” and then, “Okay?”
Sadie says, “Okay,” with a last swallow of her beer, and she reaches into the cooler for another but there aren’t any more because I didn’t put them all in because I didn’t want us—or Sadie—to drink them all in one sitting. She exhales, pronounced and heavy, and tosses her empties in the cooler, and rises from her chaise lounge, and picks up the cooler, and carries it into the house, in her bare feet, and I watch where she steps to make sure she steers clear of sharp rocks.
I remain seated in my chaise lounge, for a few minutes, perhaps longer, and I watch that rabbit still eating the wild clover, and I think of how wonderful it must be to have that as your only concern, eating clover—and also, I suppose, that hawk that’s been flying about—until I hear, through the screen door, Sadie rummaging for something in the fridge, and I get up, and I go inside, to plan a trip with Sadie to the water.
Copyright © 2022 – Peter Stavros. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Peter J. Stavros is a writer in Louisville, Kentucky, and the author of the short story collection, Three in the Morning and You Don’t Smoke Anymore (Etchings Press). More can be found at www.peterjstavros.com.
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