This one weekend, I met a girl, on some beach, near a lighthouse, in a city I’ve never been to before.
I was desperate for a job so I expanded my search out of town — into any city that was willing to take me. I scored an interview for some marketing-communications- assistant job; it was a small company that was just getting started.
I guess they liked my resume because they called me the same day I applied. I was eating potato chips and drinking the last of my pineapple juice when my phone rang.
“Can you do this Sunday?” The man on the phone asked.
I thought about claiming I had to go to church — it would have been the first time in ten years if I actually went — but I told them I’d be there.
I packed a weekend bag and found the only collared shirt I owned. I packed my camera too, knowing it could be the last chance I had to use it. If I didn’t get the job, I would be forced to sell it to make rent.
I drove up Saturday afternoon, down a desolate highway I’ve never traveled before, away from the place where I had grown up, away from a place where everything and everyone I had ever known was living — a place that was gradually dying inside of me.
I checked into the cheapest motel I could find. It looked familiar as I pulled in– maybe I saw it on a murder mystery Dateline special or an Unsolved Mysteries episode. The middle eastern lady behind the front desk was polite and gave me a big smile as she slid me the room key.
There was a water color painting on the wall of a lighthouse. I walked over to get a closer look.
The woman behind the counter said, “That’s down the road.”
I looked over my shoulder and smiled. I read the old English letters near the bottom– Fort Gratiot.
I headed to room 114. I unpacked my collared shirt. I hung it up, hoping the wrinkles would disappear by morning. I charged my camera battery and waited for it to turn green.
Snow flurries began as I drove into the everything-gray town. A smog seemed to be suspended over the city with a river running parallel with the road. The water flowed between the two cities with a large bridge connecting the two and steam and a constant surge of machine sound filled the air.
I drove until the river fed into the great lake. That’s when I saw the top of the lighthouse. It blinked green as I pulled in.
I threw my hoodie over my head, reached into the back, and grabbed my camera.
The lighthouse was tall and sturdy, made of stone, with thick wooden framed glass windows on top. I pressed both hands into its side, as if I was going to push it over. It didn’t move.
I looked up and my stomach dropped from the height. I went down the beach and turned my camera on. The water was like glass. The horizon was covered in fog. A few gulls flew by and I looked down.
There was a layer of stone, like gravel, covering the sandy beach. As I walked farther, I could hear the soft grind of rock against the bottoms of my shoes.
I turned back to the lighthouse. That’s when I saw her.
She had what looked to be a red veil covering most of her head. She wore gloves and a coat that looked a little too big on her.
She walked to the edge of the beach. I looked her up and down. I watched the water reach to the tips of her shoes and then it receded back with the tide. It was as if she had been there before and knew exactly where she could stand where her feet would remain dry.
I framed her, the bridge, and the lighthouse. I hit the shutter on my camera.
She was forty yards away looking out into the lake. I looked where she was looking. There was calmness, a horizon wrapped in a fog of nothing.
I took another picture. She looked over. I quickly pointed the camera towards the lighthouse, away from her, and pressed the shutter. I looked over at her and she was bending down, her eyes on the rocks near her feet. She tugged one of her gloves off and let the tips of her fingers run across the top layer of stone. The tide rose and the water reached to her. But it came up short…
She picked up a rock and put it in her pocket. I snapped a picture.
She stood up and began to walk towards me. She stopped, leaned down, and grabbed another rock. She stuffed it into her pocket. I backed up ten feet and snapped a photo of her and the lighthouse — with the edge of the beach all in one frame.
She approached me with deliberate motion.
“I’m sorry, am I in your shot?” She asked.
“You are my shot,” I said back.
Then without hesitation, as if her feet glided across the thin layer of water on those rocks, she moved to me.
“Excuse me, what did you say?” She stood five feet away from me now. I kept my camera in my hands, directed away from her, acting as if she wasn’t my subject.
“I was just saying that you and the lighthouse make a nice picture. Sorry, I’m not trying to be creepy.”
“That’s okay. I never see people here. I’m glad people enjoy it like I do.”
I could now make out her face. She was wearing little makeup, just enough around her eyes. They were dark brown and her lashes long. They were stuck and bunched together — as if she had been crying. Her cheeks were flush and a single lock of her curly black hair fell from under her veil.
“Do you collect rocks?” I asked as I snapped another picture of the lighthouse.
“No,” She said.
“Oh, I saw you put rocks in your pockets, that’s why I asked.”
“They aren’t rocks. And they’re for my dad.”
“Can I see them, do you mind?” I asked. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out what she had. I took a picture.
“Are you a photographer?”
“No. I just own a camera.”
“Can I see your pictures?”I turned the camera around and showed her the LCD screen.
“Those are really nice.”
“Thanks. This is my first time here. I’m in town for a job interview. Do you live around here?”
“No. But I used to. I used to work here too.”
“Here, at the lighthouse, in the summer they have a gift shop. You can buy postcards, t-shirts and necklaces with the lighthouse on them. Mostly overpriced bullshit.” She laughed.
“That sounds like a good job though.”
“Yeah. Well, maybe you’ll get the job and then you’ll be around for the season when we’re open. You should stop by.”
“Okay. Yeah. I will.”
She gave me a soft smile, turned, and headed away.
“So then maybe I’ll see you then?” I yelled after her.
She stopped. Turned back. “No, I don’t work here anymore.”
“So then, where do you work?”
“I’m unemployed,” She said. She bent down, grabbed a rock, and tossed it into the lake.
She glided away. Down the beach away from me. She went to the lighthouse and pressed her hands into the side. She stepped back and looked up.
She looked over her shoulder. She waved. I waved back.
She went around the lighthouse, it blinked green and she was gone.
That night, I slept in that cheap motel. In the morning I went to that job interview. They said they would call me. I never heard from them. When I turned my camera on and looked at the pictures, I decided to tell this story.
The next week, I sold my camera to make rent.
I write fiction.