Traci Oberg Connor



The wind never stopped blowing. On the beach, the wind threw black sand against my back. It came hard and fast and it hurt. To say that the black sand looked like pepper is not enough. The sand was laced with tiny shells, bits of glass. The waves rolled in at an angle so that the world appeared lopsided. I tilted my head to gain my balance. A plane lifted into the clouds, a toy on an invisible string. I couldn't hear it over the wind, the waves.
      A young girl climbed the rise where I sat crouched in front of a Styrofoam cooler and handed me a piece of shell worn smooth and glassy. The shell had what looked like an eye in the center of it. I rubbed it against my lip and then my tongue.
      My husband surfed distant waves, a dark shape against the lighter sky.
      The girl raised her arms into the wind and ran away down the beach. I was alone. The sand hurt on my back. I felt the eye of the shell on the tip of my tongue and I wished my husband into the horizon.
      I wished him, or myself, off the end of the world.



It was her birthday and she was in a Mexican town on the Sea of Cortez having sex with her husband in the back seat of the car. It was the only thing she wanted because she had recently developed a liver spot below her cheekbone and spider veins above her knee and was beginning to feel ugly and old. They parked at the end of a dirt road overlooking the marina with its lights drizzled across the water like sweet milk and the tall, black masts of the sailboats, the car so near the edge it reminded her of a roller coaster and how much—when the train swung out over the rail at the highest peak as if it might sail off into the sky—she hated her father with a furious, frustrated anger.
      Though it was ninety degrees and humid, they kept the windows open because she was less nervous if she could hear the noises outside. She turned the radio playing bad American love songs off and listened to the crickets and the red wind. On her back, with a pillow beneath her head, she saw star shapes scattered across the sky—a coyote, a snake, a hammerhead shark.
     Her husband was on his knees, naked, his bare feet pushed up against the door. On his right foot, the second and third toes were conjoined. Together, they looked like a little two-headed monster.
     He was inside of her quickly. The car rocked and made squeaking noises. Soon, they were sweaty and sliding around. She thought of men with machetes, of wild animals, of scorpions climbing through the open windows—thousands of them, as if in a horror movie—she couldn't keep her concentration. Then she remembered how her father pulled her mattress out into the living room so she could watch movies with him past midnight. And how the blue light from the TV drained her father's face of its color and made his teeth seem long and sharp.
     Her husband came and she cried for a short time about how happy she was, and then he lifted his head, listening, in the same way as a dog.
     "What?" she said.
     He cocked his ear, "Voices," he whispered.
     The wind blew the heavy smell of the sea in through the window. It filled her up so that she thought, for a moment, that she might drown.
     "I'm afraid," she said.
     She pulled her clothes on in the back seat while he drove. There were piles of rocks by the side of the road. An overturned wheelbarrow. In places, the road was not yet finished. A haze of dust hung inside the car.
     She couldn't help but think maybe her husband hadn't really heard voices at all.
     "Are you tired of me already?" she asked him. She felt ugly and old.
     "What?" he said.



Funny how traveling makes me both forget and remember what I've left behind.