“Sand, It Gets in Everything”
By Bilal Mohamed
It was summer in Los Angeles. The iPhone weather app forecasted 85 degrees and clear skies. It said it felt like 85 degrees, but it did not feel like 85. It felt like the atmosphere had taken the day off, the sun’s rays penetrating through even the most solid of structures with a profound heat exclusively prescribed to this city.
They sat beside each other in a quiet little juice bar in East Hollywood. The chrome stools they sat on allowing them to rotate their seats to face one another when they spoke and to turn away when silence overcame them. Sweat glistened on her now tanned face after a long morning in the park with the sun peeking through the leaves she’d laid beneath. He, overcome with exhaustion, felt a potent juice would wake him up, or at the very least cool him down, so they stopped for one on the way back to their Airbnb. This juice bar was the only one they found without a line creating a perimeter around the whole block. He looked through the window towards the restaurant across the street where a line extended down into the gas station near the crosswalk.
“You think people enjoy waiting in lines here?” he asked. She lifted her head from her straw, replying sluggishly, her words rather full, “I don’t know if they enjoy it, more so they don’t mind waiting for something they enjoy?” “Like delayed gratification?” he proposed. “Delayed gratification, right,” she replied. “I don’t know if I’d agree,” he said. “I can’t help but feel like Los Angeles residents are not the very patient type.” “Yeah, I guess, but you never really know,” she said, swirling her cup in the air before taking another long sip.
He could tell there was something on her mind, but they both had not the energy nor intention to discuss their affair that day. It was Sunday. They were traveling. They had an unwritten agreement that they’d keep the peace for the time being, though it seemed her concerns were now brimming at the surface. They drank mostly in silence after that, if not in observance of one another’s facial features then in observance of the scenes outside the window.
She didn’t mind him looking at her, in fact, she felt admiration in his gaze. He’d passionately enter her deep brown eyes attempting to uncover any hints she left situated or concealed. He’d count the freckles on the tip of her nose that he now questioned as to whether they were sunspots or had always been there. And usually, she’d meet his gaze with her own, revealing a smirk or little chuckle that followed a rose-colored tint in her plump, soft cheeks he loved to caress. She cherished the translatability of their eyes for words, but sometimes, she’d look away simply to test if she had any real words to say, only to find herself emptied. She’d kept her eyes down just then and let him watch her knowing that his flirtatious tendencies would not then be reciprocated. It’d been some years since they sat together like this. In fact, they’d never spent as much time together as they had on this trip.
She sipped slow and he carefully maneuvered his straw, cleaning the leftover juice hidden between the ice cubes. Cars drifted and honked haphazardly in the street before them. Traffic in LA was not only menacing, but ambiance. You were either stuck, sitting in it, or you were watching and hearing it persist from afar.
Some girls outside who he thought resembled influencers crossed the window before entering the juice bar. It seemed they drank juice often because they ordered instantly despite the intricate recipes they demanded from the juicer. One by one they joined them at the bar, only to quickly find discomfort and opt to sit outside under the gazebo. “We’ll be outside!” a blonde one yelled out. He wasn’t sure why they didn’t want to sit there, but he appreciated his space, so he paid no mind.
Despite his exhaustion, the heat, and her increasingly contemplative mood, he still breathed a certain air of lightness and enthusiasm that she just didn’t seem to possess. He placed his emptied cup on the bar where she rested her propped up elbow.
“Is there anything you want to talk about?” he asked. The question roused her from some daze. “What? No, not really,” she passed on with a small laugh. “I mean, isn’t there always something to talk about? I feel like we’re always talking.” “Yeah, that’s true. Just thought I’d ask while we’re here, you know, together,” he said. “I can see that,” she replied. “I think I’m okay for now though. Thanks.”
She straightened her posture and took a deep breath through her nose into her belly. She held it there for a few seconds, then let it out very slowly from her mouth. ‘That’s how they teach you to breathe in acting class,’ he thought. ‘In through the nose and out of the mouth. Four seconds in, eight seconds out.’
She pulled her forearm across her temple stickily dragging it as it accumulated all the sweat from her forehead. He was hot, but he did not mind the heat. Some days, in fact, most days lately, he would go to beaches in San Diego and spend time wading through the water to cool down. He’d read on the shore, journal at cafes on the promenade, sometimes rent a bike and cruise the boardwalk.
“When’s the last time you went to the beach?” he asked. She perked her head up in surprise at his question. “I don’t know, maybe a week or two ago. What about you?”, she asked. “I went a few times about two weeks ago, but I’d like to go again soon. This heat wave just won’t let up,” he said. She turned her head to the side in confusion. “I thought you said you didn’t like the beach?” “When did I say that? I love the beach,” he replied. “Every time I used to ask you to come with me to the beach you’d say, ‘I don’t like the sand. And that ‘it gets in everything’”, she said. “Really? I used to say that?” he asked. “Yes,” she replied. “Hmm,” he said as he began rubbing his chin. “I’m not sure what happened then, I just know I like the beach now,” he said. “Well, that’s good to know,” she said. “I guess that means we can go to the beach together now!” a smile then appeared on her face. He paused. “Yeah, maybe. I don’t see why not,” he said.
He surveyed the street where the line was a bit shorter now and traffic had finally quieted. He lifted his cup off the counter and sipped mindlessly at the now melted ice as she sat there and adored his perspiring face.