I put the cask on the counter and the clerk says nothing. I’m making punch, my anxiety says, sangria. The clerk doesn’t care, simply pronounces the price while I collate the cost. I offer thanks and get paid with a nod that haunts me out the door, down the street, and into my first glass. I can hear the ice cracking against the suburban stillness. My thirst never makes a sound. By my last I’m no longer dry and ready to drown. I nod at the walls. It’s a punch, I tell them, but you can’t see the bruise.
The beach has always been cold to me, no matter how I’ve loved it, but I go there often and take my loves with me. Like Caleb, confidant and strong with beautiful form and numbing passion. ‘You can’t help me,’ he said, stripping to skin, ‘even if I’m struggling,’ and walked into the waves without hesitation. I’ve always respected the tide and its wishes, the soft inevitability and reassuring repetition of predictable chaos. So I sat above the water line with the prickled edges of pre-glass sticking to my flesh, thinking of love and watching while Caleb drowned.