The Big Issue : Edition 439
56 THE BIG ISSUE 16 -- 29 AUG 2013 DOWN ON HER knees she began scooping out a ditch to place Dan's towel. She didn't mind the sand lumps, she liked the hollow of them pushing on her bony back. She thought about the drawings she had due the next morning. She would need to stay up late that night to fnish them. Her grades seemed to have slipped this term. Dan lay down beside her and closed his eyes. "Did you bring my sunglasses?" "No. Sorry. I forgot." She turned to him and watched his squinty eyes open. He stretched his mouth open wide and the sun shone down on his freckled face. Lana listened to the rush of the sea, the push and pull. The sun whipped her collar bones with lashes of heat and she thought about skin cancer. She'd probably get it one day. She hated baring her white skin at the beach. Sometimes she tried to sneak a bit of fake tan. Not that she'd ever want to look brown, just a little less white. But Dan always smelt the stuff and told her to hurry and wash it off. "Hey, Dan?" she said, "Do you know what the worst punishment in the world would be?" Dan didn't answer. "It would be to count every grain of sand on Earth. When I was a little girl, I used to imagine it all the time. I'd wake in the night in great fts, doing it in my head, tiny grains of sand falling off my palm." Her voice trailed off, with the sound of the ocean. She shifted onto her front and propped herself up onto her elbows, reaching for the sunscreen. "Can you do my back?" she said. "I'm comfortable. Just lie on your back," said Dan. She undid the lid and poured some onto the top of her hand then twisted her elbow round her back and began using her hand like a windscreen wiper. If she got burnt, it would only be a small patch in the middle. SHE SAT BACK again and studied the sea. Its rhythmic longings whispered to her. Sometimes they said you're ugly or you're annoying me lately or even you're awfully intelligent. Today they said swim. She thought about diving down deep like an eel, the water wrapping itself around her body. She thought about swimming out so far that the beach would become a blip on the horizon. "You look like you're thinking something," said Dan. "What are you thinking?" "I'm not thinking anything." He stared at her for a long time and she turned towards the sun. "Hey," he said and poked her in the ribs. "How about making me smile for a change, huh?" She giggled and turned towards him. Then he reached out and clamped his hand around her jaw and pulled her head towards his. "We're good aren't we, babe, we're good?" "Yes, we're great." "Good. You like making me smile, don't you?" he said. "That's important, isn't it?" "Yes," she said and turned away. "Good. You know what you could do instead of day- dreaming? You haven't forgotten, have you?" He drilled his eyes into her face. Just like tar, they were the darkest brown. "I'm not sure what you mean." The tiniest sneer crept over his lips. "But people will see," she whispered, and her face began to burn. "That's their problem. I'm tense. You know how bad things have been this week." "I can't do it here," Lana whispered. "I don't feel comfortable. I'm sorry." Dan reached over and grabbed her jaw again, shook it a little. "So sombre today," he said. "Little frigid, aren't you?" and he began to laugh. She turned to the other side and watched a man and woman in their late forties or ffties jog past, laughing. A black labrador ran up and sniffed around, then took off pelting down the beach. The couple smiled and waved. Dan propped himself up on his elbows and nodded back, smiling. "Little bitch," he said quietly as he waved. "Frigid little bitch." AFTER SOME TIME Lana sat up and stared at the water. Her mouth hung like a misshapen coathanger. Swim, the water whispered. "Your spine is bent," said Dan. "Has anyone ever told you? A part of it protrudes and curves. Have you ever looked at yourself from behind?" "No," whispered Lana. "Your sister has a nice back," he continued. "She's got those two little dimples on either side of her lower spine. Bet boys go crazy for that." Lana brushed the sand off her shins and watched the small waves roll in. After some time she got up and stood for a while, just looking. "What are you doing?" said Dan. There was almost no one left on the beach now. Lana began to walk towards the water. "Where are you going?" "Don't follow," she whispered to the water. She asked the sky and the sand, too. She kept on, nearing the water's edge. Her feet splashed the shore and she gasped, sucking the air into her lungs. It was freezing. Slowly, the water took her by her shins, her thighs, her groin, her stomach. She grimaced as it took her breasts and chest as if to slice everything off with one quick swipe. LANA LISTENED TO THE RUSH OF THE SEA, THE PUSH AND PULL. THE SUN WHIPPED HER COLLAR BONES WITH LASHES OF HEAT AND SHE THOUGHT ABOUT SKIN CANCER. SHE'D PROBABLY GET IT ONE DAY. SHE HATED BARING HER WHITE SKIN AT THE BEACH.