The darkness makes Gerard’s features soft when he faces me, his black hair fading into the shadows, the sunlight a mask across his gray eyes. I miss the sharpness of his features, his model cheekbones and cleft chin hidden by the artificial night the pier and its intricate support system create. One foot in front of the other, one print in wet sand added onto my trail after another, I take the last few steps to Gerard. He looks up.
“I knew you’d come back here.” The sunlight hits his chiseled face.
“You know me too well.” I sink down beside him carefully and open my bag. Danish chaos. It’s everywhere. My iPod, my extra shirt, my notebook. This will take some time. I pull my notebook out with reverence and attack it with the shirt, using the unsullied portions of purple cotton to wipe off the cover. Safe. Good. I need my memories. I hate them, but I need them. I pull out the iPod next. I go after it with the same vigor as the notebook, but Gerard takes both shirt and gadget from my hands and starts cleaning it with care, occasionally using his hot breath to make enough moisture to get some of the stickier bits free.
“You’re lucky, nothing got into any of the jacks on this. Guess that’s why Apple makes them so small.” He hands the iPod back to me and tosses the shirt behind him.
“Why, so idiots like me can’t mess them up? And you shouldn’t litter.”
He turns away from me.
I want to be nice, I do, I want to make up. Hangups and history bite me over and over, gnawing at my skull. It isn’t his fault my first love ended with me a broken shell, barely able to get away and try to fill back up again.
I try again. “Thank you my love, all my shit would be broken without you.”
He tilts his ear toward me, but doesn’t speak. I try again.
“If you will forgive my ignorance, I would be honored to rub your back later.”
He turns toward me. Smiles. I smile back, and wipe his cheek with the recovered shirt, careful to use the one remaining clean part on the hem. He wraps his arms around me. I fall, forget the world around us.
Then he speaks.
“I got a letter.” This is mumbled into his shirt.
“It was from them.”
“You have to go back someday Ali.” He rubs my back. He smells like strength and Old Spice. I cry.
“No I don’t.”
“He’s your son.” More back rubbing. My fingers dig into his lower back, his upper thigh. It makes the world stop spinning.
“Not anymore. Who knows what they told him.”
“Your Mom is there too. She loves you.”
“She took him from me! And she’s dead now, serves her right.” His shirt was beginning to soak and made my cheek feel clammy and unreal. I found a dry spot over his heart and let go.
“Shh, you don’t mean that, shh, it will be fine…just let it go…I love you Ali.”
We stayed there, entwined, until the afternoon heat drove us out towards home. He took off his shirt and let me use it to clean up. I splashed the salt of the ocean on my face. We both marveled at the water and dug our toes into the soft sand at the edge of the waves. I stared towards the sun and wondered if Gerard was a good enough thief to take one of the boats out there.
We’d both needed to run from Vegas. Though it was a jail sentence instead of a death sentence he faced.