I wrote a little message for you and I slipped it into a bottle and shoved a cork in the top. It wasn’t really much, just a few simple words that I hope you’ll understand when it finally reaches your shore. I wiped off the container so you don’t have to worry about the fingerprint smudges on the glass. I know you hated it when I left those ghostly imprints behind on the windows and doors.
I walked along the beach without any shoes or socks. I wanted to feel the hot sand consume the skin on the bottom of my toes. The sun had been beating down on the ground for hours before I made it to the sea. I was sure it would melt my flesh right off. I didn’t feel a thing.
There weren’t really too many people at the beach that day. You probably would’ve liked it. A little boy and his older sister were playing with a crab a couple hundred feet in the distance. You wouldn’t know that it was a crab until you heard the boy scream that it bit him. You probably would’ve been disappointed that I didn’t go over and make sure everyone was okay. But I had my own job to do.
The boy and his sister still laughed and played, even as they got further away. The waves rang in my ears. I wondered that if you could still lift a shell to your ear, if you’d be able to hear them, too. Maybe if you pressed your ear hard enough against it, you’d hear those siblings and their crab. And maybe, if you really tried, you could listen to the soles of my bare feet slink across the sand.
When I got to the shoreline I looked out and saw nothing but water. I wanted to come on a day when there wouldn’t be any boats. I know you silently hated the junk they dumped into the water. I pretended to hate it, too. I walked beyond the fringe of land and submerged my feet in the sea until it pooled around my ankles. I thought it would be cold. I thought it would make me yelp in an impossible pitch like I did when you would splash it into my face. I was sure it would freeze my feet. I didn’t feel a thing.
I took the bottle out from my pocket and held it by the cork. The sun peered through the glass and lit up my arm. I smiled. I thought about you.
I swung my arm back, then thrust it forward and let the bottle fly loose in the sky. It flipped through the air, top over bottom, seven times before plopping almost-soundlessly into the vast spread of water. I squinted and saw the bottle rise back to the top of the water’s surface. But before long, it drifted off—too far out of sight.
I thought about you. The bottle would float gracefully across the sea, past the edge of the horizon, and break beyond the confines of the earth. It would become encased in stardust and race toward you. It wouldn’t look back. It would hover in space until the frigidity of the emptiness shattered the glass and sent my note to you. You’d find that slip of paper, and you’d think of me.
Did I say enough?
I thought after I sent that note that I would feel something again. But I didn’t. It was still missing. You were, that is. I plunged into the sea and pulled myself amongst the waves. I thought about how dirty my clothes would get, and how you would have been upset with me for doing something so reckless. But I must’ve forgot to add something to that note. It wasn’t ready yet. I had to fix it.
I swam straight ahead for as long as I could, but the bottle was gone. Maybe it had already broken through Earth’s atmosphere. Maybe the stardust had already carried it to you. Maybe you had already read it and the disappointment consumed you completely.
A breeze swept across the surface of the sea and whistled in the distance. It sounded like you. I strained my ear to hold onto its sound, but it continued to fade. I wondered if that was you. You’d have made fun of me for thinking such a thing, but it gave me the energy to swim back to shore. I pulled myself out of the water and stood in my sopping clothes, just at the fringe of the land.
The voice of that little boy resounded in my head, but it was much closer than before. I turned to my left and saw him standing just beside me. His sister yelled something at him, probably about leaving me alone. But I didn’t mind. You wouldn’t have wanted me to.
He held up his crab and brandished it toward me. I smiled and told him to be careful. He nodded, then insisted that I hold his crustaceous friend. And when I did, it clamped its pincers around my finger in a vice. I cussed under my breath and flung the crab to the ground. A small trickle of blood slipped down my finger.
The boy retrieved the crab from the ground and ran off again. His sister apologized a thousand times, but I told her everything was just fine.
And it was. Because for the first time since you’d been gone, I felt something.
Oh, My Word! Jacob would love to hear from you after reading this brief piece. He was inspired by the prompt: While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say? Who would you like to find it? Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments, or use this prompt to inspire your own writing!
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