Small drops of water sit on top of your upper lip. Sweat sticks to mine and slips down the small of my back, the sides of my calves. The sun sits high and bright in the sky. You pile sand on top of my toes, cool and soft. The place smells like chlorine and coconut lotion and there’s a permanent haze of sunscreen in the air. Next to us, a mom smears thick white paste across the cheeks of her sons, leaving their faces looking like ghosts. They run away from her with streaks across the tops of their ears, hidden in the creases of their elbows and knees. Your own ears have a white film, as do the tops of your feet and hands.
You dig and dig and dig, and the pile on top of my feet grows until my ankles disappear. “Are you going to build that to my knees?” I joke. You look up at me for a moment, then bend your head again without answering. Around me, the women are all tight tummies and toned legs and shining skin. They have delicate hoop earrings, wide-brimmed wicker hats, perfect white teeth. I suck in my tummy a bit, but it makes my ribs stick out, so I let it go again. I wish I’d worn a pair of short to cover the rounded tops of my thighs.
There’s sand creeping into the edges of your diaper, but I won’t find it until later that night – your skin raw pink and tender, your walk bow-legged and awkward to keep from touching anything but air. You work while your brother rides the water slides that you’re too short for with your father. The two of you stood, backs against the sign, your head six inches below the cut off line. You’d trudged slowly away from it, not entirely pacified with the chance to spend the afternoon with me instead of zipping down the giant tubes. You’d waited and watched your brother climb the steep steps, tube balanced above his head until he turned the corner and you could no longer see him.
The pile of sand around me grows. “Mind if I move my feet?” I ask. “Mommy wants to sit.”
This time, you don’t bother looking up. You keep digging and dumping, digging and dumping, bright orange shovel bobbing up and down in the sand.
From where I’m standing, I can see the sunglasses I wish I had grabbed sitting where I left them on the pool chair. The book I brought, next to them, untouched and warming itself in the sun. A poolside waiter walks by carrying a tray of drinks in shades of pastel. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, and my hand reaches out as if to grab one, but he’s too far away and then he’s passing them out to a group with their feet dangling in the pool.
I slowly work my own feet out of their cool sand caves. You frown as I take a step back, but the pile holds and we both smile. I take a step out of the sandpit onto the concrete, but it burns the bottoms of my feet and I step back in and make my way to the sandy edge of the swimming pool instead. The water is gritty but cool and I sigh. The man next to me looks over and I catch a glimpse of my bright red cheeks in the mirror of his sunglasses, see the hair flying around my face, the bits stuck to the sweat at my temples. I smile at him, but he’s already turned away, and I take a seat at the edge of the pool, waiting for your brother and father to make their way back to us.