a twist on "Hills like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway
Birds Like White Flags
It was cold. It was so cold that it seeped into our skin and latched on to our bones, giving us a false hope that any warmth would ever come. A thick blanket of dark gray clouds covered the sky, so the world really did seem like it was black and white. From the silver lining, the Ocean waves were colorless, except from the hint of ice blue that shimmered from that tiny silver in the sky. the waves came in, crashed upon the rocks with furious madness. They came, ought hard against the rocks surface and quietly surrendered, only to return again. As monotonous as this may have been, it was a symphony of magic that we wished, at that moment, could only be more beautiful than it already was.
The smell of the salty sea air tickled my nose. I glanced up at the sky, squinting as I did. I could tell that it was going to rain soon, but she wouldn't care. She loved the beach. She always had. Seagulls flew above us, in and out of the gray clouds. Tehir white wings flapped in the wind like flags, but not to surrender the hopes that they might get to where they were going. I looked over at her then, wondering what she was thinking, what was on her mind.
She leaned back on the sand, her hands digging further into the tiny grains. She uncurled her legs out in front of her, pointing and flexing her toes like a blalerina would before dancing. She hid her emerald green eyes underneath her eyelids and bent her head back, breathing in the sea salt and the air that smelled like rain. Her long blonde hair blew softly in the direction o the wind. I watched her intently.
“Stop staringat me," she said, even though she didn't open her eyes she knew I was staring.
“I can’t help it," I said, “it's kind of hard not to.”
“It creeps me out,” she replied.
“I’m sorry," I said, but not really apologizing.
Silence, with nothing but the wind and the seagulls between us. For a second I turned away from her and looked out on to the sea. I saw a sailboat in the faded distance, coming up over the horizon, it’s sail raised high. I wondered where it was going.
“Did you know that before Christopher Columbus discovered the world was round, everyone thought it was flat?” she said, giving me a sidelong glance. There was hint of a smile in there, a smile I hadn’t seen in awhile. “Everyone thought he was crazy.”
“We learned that in first grade,” I said. “I already knew that.”
“What if the world really was flat?" she asked. “Would we really fall off the face of the earth, or would we just walk around to the other side?”
“If we walked around to the other side, then we’d all be living upside down,” I answered, matter-of-factually. “All the blood would rush to our heads and we’d be crazy.”
“Better than being normal," she muttered.
“We’re not normal,” I said. “you and me.”
She laughed. “What are we, then?”
I frowned and bit my l ip; she had caught me off guard. I thought that we were together. But with her question, maybe I had been wrong. I stared at her for a moment, in her emerald green eyes and hoped that she wasn't thinking what I feared. I had done so much to try and keep us together, even after everything we've been through. We made mistakes. She had to give one up.
“I’d do anything for you," I said softly, letting my words fade into the wind. “I've given up more than I intended but it was because I wanted to, not because I had to.”
“Is that a lie?”
“Why did you want to?”
“I loved you.”
Silence again. The ravenous waves thrashed around; attacking the rocks with such force that it was surprising they still stood as monuments of the sea. The sailboat I had seen earlier was being tossed about like a ball.
“I've given up more than you,” she said. “Now I have nothing.”
“I would marry you, if you’d let me," I said, turning to her once more. “I’d take care of you. Why won't you let me?”
“We've been walking upside down," she answered. “It wasn't supposed to happen that way. We did everything backwards.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“It means that we did nothing right," she retorted. “Everything was wrong from the beginning. We weren't in the right state of mind and things happened.”
“I told you I’d marry you,” I repeated. “Doesn’t that mean anything?”
“I'm not the one, am I?” I said.
She looked at me then, her face sad.
“I wish you were,” she finished.
I looked to the sailboat out at sea. It was gone, swallowed by the waves. She stood up and brushed herself off, then held out her hand to help me up. I followed suit. We both turned then to look at the tiny slither within the blanket of the sky. I notice a tear coming down her cheek, and I wanted to wipe it away for her, but I dared not. She laced her fingers through mine and sueezed my hand just a bit, as though to bring me the only kind of comfort she knew how to give.
“I hope she’s with a good family," she said distantly. “I hope she has a happy life.”
I looked up into the sky again, hoping the tears that wanted to come down would wait until I go home. The seagulls had disappeared into the blanket of clouds, and there was nothing now between us but the darkened, cold world.
“She will,” I said softly. “I know she will.”