I dreamt in mango. Dreams so lush, I could taste the fruit. Months indoors, I had watched masked neighbors circling the block. As winter glacially thawed into a second spring, I needed a piercing sun.
In late spring, vaccinated yet wary, we soared south. No wings now can carry you far enough away from death, but I wanted to see feathers in colors other than grey and brown.
We arrive to a beach covered in sargassum, sulfuric and ubiquitous. Undeterred, feet splayed, rooting like spiderlillies, I stand in the sand.
As I let the sun leech the tension from my bones, a child, wearing one Mickey Mouse floaty skirts the edge of the surf. Tendrils of sargassum are in her hair. She waves at me with the vigor only a child would expend on someone she does not know. Sitting in the shallows, she piles fetid seagrass on her head and mock growls at me. I feign fear and it is marvelous. After two years of waking and sleeping in real dread, pretending feels cathartic. The child is overjoyed. She whoops and throws seagrass at me. I splash water to keep her away. She stomps forward before a wave catches her, sends her sprawling, a mouth full of seafoam. I wait for tears but she wipes the saltwater from her eyes and laughs.
A voice softly calls and the child stands. She looks down the beach and shouts to her mother in Spanish that she is coming. She smiles widely at me and says, “Happy! Bye!”
I let my body down into water. Happy. Bye.
Sky Island Journal published this flash in Issue 24, Spring 2023. The editors Jason and Jeff are supportive and encouraging and I was delighted that my work again garnered their attention.