Joseph stood in the September water and the deep chill of it made him cringe. He wanted to run back to the dry sands and towel off, but he was only waist deep and he had to go deeper to purge; to chase away the hold Kayla had on him. So he kept moving forward, and as the icy Atlantic waters wrapped his abdomen in a stinging vice grip, he winced and imagined her hands pried loose from around him, as if undoing the way she used to step up behind and give him a hug; her embrace broken by frigid exorcism. He came to the ocean to forget her kisses and scent, the subtle, twitching smile his jokes produced, the way she pushed herself up to receive him during their lovemaking. During their sex. Because he wasn’t in love with her. Joseph held a deep breath and braced himself for the chilling, dense unforgiveness of the sea. Then he dipped his head under, as he had so many times before, below the surface and held himself down, eyes open in the burning green murk of the tide. The pain of his warm breath stored inside of him was lightning leaping from his skin into the damning cold. And when he broke the surface, the crisp air attacked Joseph like enraged hornets. He screamed despite his awareness of early morning beach walkers within earshot with their dogs leading them. And he felt the thoughts of Kayla slip off him like the saltwater streaming down his face. He would walk out of the surf now and leave her memory to be collected by the tide; whatever they had now buried at sea with failures he’d rid himself of over the years. Joseph couldn’t get it right, the only constant he’d come to know being the taste of salt on his lips each time he said goodbye.
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