The sun kept going behind the clouds. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, it was supposed to be sunny every day, all the time, he thought, feeling the skin on his arms cool slightly, waiting for the sun to return it to its rightful overcooked place.
He pretended to watch his son Jake climb the ladder in the playground outside the water park. His daughter had wanted to stay and slide a few more times down the massive blue water slide, but Jake was done, so the two of them left. Jake said he didn’t like the way the water went up his nose but David knew it was the height he was scared of. His wife had stayed behind with Hallie, sitting in a vinyl beach chair and occasionally looking up and waving and shouting back at her each time she climbed the steps to the slide. David could hear his wife’s shouts even at this distance, though her grating, nasal Brooklyn voice was softened as it blew across the sand towards the ocean. He remembered that voice now and how it sounded at the post office in Needham where they got their passports, too loud for a suburban voice, too angry. The chaos of forms, money orders, tiny photos, the keys slamming on the counter, Hallie’s red coat with the fluffy collar falling on the dirty floor, the preternaturally calm desk clerk asking where were the kids’ forms? The look his wife gave him that he could not meet, that he felt crawling up his insides as he hurried through the automatic doors to the car, knowing the forms weren’t there either, It had been the start of yet another colossal argument.
But now his eyes were scanning for a woman somewhere between the beach and that orange building with the turquoise shutters where the snack bar was. What did she look like? He wasn’t exactly sure. He only knew her from the waist up. He knew her face, he knew what she looked like from the front. He had never seen her walk. The last he’d seen her was in a photograph she’d sent while they were instant messaging just before the trip. He’d seen plenty of pictures of her, and had seen her on the webcam, but it was always from the waist up. In the picture she’d sent, which her son had taken with her Blackberry camera, she was lying on a Persian rug with her eyes closed, her hair framing her face as it spilled across the carpet. That hair! He had wanted to touch her hair for many months now, had imagined it silkiness in his hands as he pushed it away from her face, imagined finally kissing her. And that picture had set him on fire because he had never seen her lying down before, and there she was, relaxed, a half-smile on her full lips, turned away but seeming about to turn to him, about to open her eyes in a bed somewhere with him, not wearing the wool sweater in the picture but something soft and white, or nothing at all.
“Can we go now?” The whiny voice of a 7-year-old boy.
Jake had come back from the playground. There were no other kids there. It seemed odd that there was even a playground next to the water park. He had a bored look on his face.
“Why are we even here? When is Hallie and Mommy coming back?”
So far the plan wasn’t panning out. This would be the second time they’d missed each other. They were supposed to meet here, now. Kay would be with her son Danny, who was just the kind of boy Jake would like to play with. They both liked Ben 10 and Power Rangers and shared that annoying early boyhood sense of humor that might involve whacking yourself in the head or trying in any way possible to work the words “poop” and “fart” into a sentence. The boys would play together, like each other, and they’d set up a few more playdates during the week. Beyond that, the plans got a little vague.
“Um, I don’t know, lemme check something.” David pulled out his cell phone and clicked a few buttons. “WAYN” — Where Are You Now?
His pocket buzzed a minute later with Kay’s response. “Loo,” she wrote. “d poop accident. back to hotel. meet at lunch.”
David put his phone back in his shorts, took one more look around the beach and the snack bar, and then lifted himself out of the chair. “Alright buddy, let’s see if we can go find those guys.” They walked across the sand to the steps leading back to the water park.