Cave by the Sea

Clara is in a cave by the sea. The tide rises, fills the cave floor, washes over the small beach and algae covered rocks. It erases the sand castles she spent the morning constructing, melts the bridges she allowed Enrique to traverse between turret-topped towers.  She climbs further up the red rock wall. She pets the gecko that lives in her pocket tee, her thumb rubbing its smooth little head, its eyes close hazily from the pressure. “Time for a nap Enrique,” she says to the lizard, wondering if it is vaguely racist that she calls him Enrique, though she much prefers it to Todd. Clara bites the free edge of her thumbnail off and feeds it to her pocket. Enrique snips it up. “We gotta get out of here, professor,” she says to an abandoned floor lamp next to her, hoping to make light of a life-threatening tidal rise. “The floor lamp is unamused, as floor lamps tend to be,” she mutters to the lizard, who is already asleep.  

Clara makes a list of words that begin with the letter R.  She begins with rope, which she has, then she thinks, rope knots, which she doesn’t know how to make.  She is frustrated. She thinks of rage. Then she thinks red vines, but what she would prefer to eat is a twizzler. There is a crack in the rock-wall to her left. She thinks rock climb but these aren’t the right shoes. The sunset outside the cave can be traced in the shadows from the round skylight that forms atop the cave like a volcano. Rapscallion, she thinks, because a boy is what she was chasing as she snorkeled away from the group, tugging Enrique in a plate sized buoy above her.  Rut, that’s what this is, a continuous pattern that she is held in.  

“But you’re in paradise,” says the lamp to Clara.  “Look at this cave. The lines on these walls predate your entire existence. Now, isn’t that great?”

She fiddles with a pebble, worrying it between her thumb and forefinger.  She sees a ripple in its wake.

“I think my life is a mistake,” she says to the lamp.

“There aren’t mistakes. There are only paths. You are on this path. You are on this path until you reach the next one. You can decide to stop or you can hoist me up to that hole there, and hook me to the rock. You can climb me right back into existing. You can take me home, refresh my bulb, polish my brass, plug me into the wall. We’ll start a life together.”

She grabs the lamp by its neck.

Portrait of Enrique