Girls in Pink

I looked over the edge at the water beneath me. Half in sun, half in shadow, it was green and black and deep. The surface swayed and washed like gelatin, hiding the power of the currents that moved against the rock face.

Sea lions rested on rocks, and swam back and forth between the sun and shadow. They were enjoying themselves. None of them looked up at me, standing by myself and watching them. I got caught by a slash of loneliness, so real it hurt my chest.

There was a noise behind me, and I looked back over my shoulder. Annie Kahlo was coming down the steps. Her steps were light, and she reminded me of dancing, like she always did.

“I come here every day in the afternoon,” Annie said, indicating the sea lions on the rocky shelf underneath us. “I love them, and I almost never miss a visit. I feel like I have to keep an eye on them. They know how to play.”

The first drops of rain spattered the cement. The cloud bank rolled over us, taking the last sun. Late afternoon transformed all at once into early evening. There were no electric lights on the platform. We'd have to leave soon.

“They're all different,” she said. “You recognize some of them after a while. Sometimes one of them is just gone, and you know something must have happened. They run into sharks once in a while. I always feel like I should warn them, and I can't, so I try to see them every day in case one of them isn't going to be around anymore. If I were better...” She turned her head to look at me. The vulnerability in her eyes pulled at me. “That's crazy, isn't it?”

“I think it's wonderful,” I said. “Not crazy.”

I watched her face in the gloom. I was struck again by her remarkable stillness, the containment that seemed to cover so much emotion. I thought I would be happy just to watch her face for hours, and I wondered if I had ever thought that about anyone else. She opened her mouth to speak, and closed it again. There was something on her mind, so I watched it get dark and waited for her.

“They're going to kill you,” she finally said. “If you don't give this up. One day, you'll be gone.”

The rain came harder now, but it was so warm I hardly felt it. “Game goes nine innings,” I said. “We aren't there yet.”

I leaned on the railing and looked down. It was getting harder to see in the dusk. The tide was coming in, and every so often a surge washed over the empty rocks below us and spread white foam. The sea lions had all left, gone to wherever sea lions go when night is coming and it's blowing rain.

“So you're sticking around,” she said. “No matter what.”

“Is it up to me?” I asked.

She held my eyes for a long moment, and nodded. The rain ran down her face, but she didn't blink. I looked away, out at the water, and then I nodded, too.

“Then I'm in,” I said. “The whole nine, no matter what.”

The falling water didn't make any difference to the swells and troughs. They came and went just the way they always had, and they looked exactly the same. The ocean doesn't care how hard it rains.

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