I’m staring into the inside of my eyelids. “Can you see it?”
Beside me, Adam nods. I can hear him laugh, as soft as a whisper. “Yeah?”
“What do you see?”
“Erm… I see.. Seagulls.”
Feathers flutter all around us. Adam’s shoulder presses into mind. He breathes in and out. In. Out. In. Out. “I can see the sea,” I say. “And the beach.”
“Is there a pier?”
I shake my head. “No. Only sea and sky. What else do you see?”
“Pfft… waves.” Adam closes his eyes as I open them. “And sea shells. Sand.” He smiles, but to himself. Only I can see his laugh. “Logical.”
I’m distracted. “What?”
“On a beach?”
I laugh. A long time ago, Adam went to visit the beach. Back when he didn’t need help breathing. The only thing Adam still has to bring him back to the beach are photo albums and me. “Am I there too?” I ask him. “On the beach?”
He nods. “You’re always there.”
Gently, I reach for his face, following the way the light falls onto his face with my fingertips. From his forehead to the valley between his eyebrows onto the bridge of his nose. “The wind whispers on your face.” My fingers travel along, from his nose towards the curved edges of his lips. His breath is warm. “Can you smell the sea? The salt in your mouth?”
He nods. “We’re close, aren’t we?”
“That we are. If you take a few more steps, the water will touch your ankles.”
“It’s cold,” Adam says.
“It will get warmer,” I promise him. “Wait and see.”
My fingers continue their journey, touching the fragile skin of his chin and neck. The hollow at the base of his throat. “The sun is shining, can you feel it? Can you see the kites?”
“They’re red, aren’t they?”
“They’re in all colors. Every shade you’ve ever seen. Like Skittles.”
“I can see them.” He smiles and shares the secret with me, only me. “You’re there,” he whispers. “Here with me.”
I put my hand over his heart. Now it’s still beating. How many beats does he still have? It’s a ticking time bomb in the belly of the alligator. “Am I waving at you?”
Adam shakes his head and puts his hand over mine. “You’re looking out over the sea. Your hair is dancing in the wind.”
“What am I looking at?”
I look at him instead. How he hides in the dark. How he dreams about oceans he’ll never be able to swim. The lines in his face are like a treasure map. If I follow it, I’ll find a chest full of impossible memories. “I see you.”
He smiles in the dark. “You were right.”
“About what?” I frown.
“The water is getting warmer. Can we go deeper?”
“You go first.”
I hold his hand as he walks into the water. In his head, he goes deeper and deeper. First until his knees touch the surface. Then his stomach. When the water embraces his shoulders I let him go. He needs to go on alone. I can’t go where he goes.
I watch as Adam disappears into an ocean of night.