I visited your house the other day. I suppose you didn’t see me. You looked so busy. How’s school? We are distant cousins, but I care about you a lot. I saw your mother leave looking very disappointed. Your sister told me you didn’t want to accompany Aunt Carlyn to the beauty salon. Every time I visit your house, Aunt Carlyn goes out, but you always find a reason to refuse to accompany her. It looks like she wants you with her when she goes out. I will tell you a story.
Our small family lived in the countryside from when I was born until I graduated from college. Our house was just about three hundred meters from Camino Beach. My mother, your Aunt Rosella, had been asthmatic as far as I could remember, and she loved to go to the beach, believing that the early morning breeze there could somehow heal an asthmatic person. I was a menopausal baby; when I was in grade school, she was nearing fifty.
“Elise, wake up,” Mom said ever so softly, shaking me lightly, at five in the morning. “Let’s go to the beach. We’ll collect pretty seashells, too.”
The thought of collecting colorful seashells along the shore always excited me even in my sleep. Accompanying Mom to Camino Beach, whose fine caramel sand was a local attraction, was exhilarating. I even looked forward to it, sometimes waking up by myself at five. We went to the beach before the sun rose three times a week.
During high school, when I’d rather talk to my classmates about boys and other girl stuff rather than be with Mom and listen to her endless stories or nagging, I started to refuse to accompany her to the beach. “Mom, it’s just five in the morning,” I complained when she woke me up. “I don’t feel like going to the beach. You know I was on the phone with Jen until midnight, talking about our chemistry project.” The chemistry project was a cute guy in chemistry class. Then I went back to sleep. But then I was frightened whenever Mom had an asthma attack.
During college, Mom still went to the beach once in a while. Since I had to stay in a dormitory near the university, an hour’s drive from home, it was impossible for me to accompany her. On weekends when I was home, she couldn’t wake me up, but when she did, I said with my eyes closed, “Mom, I need to catch up on sleep. You know how hard I work on weekdays. What’s with that beach? Is it medically proven it can cure asthma? You’ve been going there since I was in grade school; you haven’t gotten any better.” I didn’t want to look at her disappointed face. Collecting colorful seashells along the shore no longer appealed to me, Mom must have thought. But honestly those seashells still fascinated the hell out of me. I still thought collecting them was enjoyable. But I couldn’t tell her that.
One day, she wanted me to go home even though it was just Wednesday. “I cooked your favorite adobo,” she said teasingly. “It would all go to your dad. Is that okay with you?”
“That’s okay,” I sighed impatiently. “Just eat without me. Jen and I still need to finish a project early in the morning.” The important project was a jogging session. We were not fond of jogging or any sport or form of exercise, but who wouldn’t go jogging if your biggest crush on campus invited you to do it with him? I was a shy girl, so I needed Jen to play along …
The whole story is available in print in the September 2018 issue of “ARTPOST magazine.” Although the magazine will no longer be publishing stories, the latest issues, including the September 2018 issue in which this story appears, are still available for purchase. Visit the ARTPOST magazine website.
Header Image: Jeremy Bishop