Sunset in Santa Monica
by Didi Wood
Her husband blames her for the persecution of the Jews throughout history. He doesn't say it, but she knows. "My little shiksa," he calls her, his manner sarcastically magnanimous, as if absolving her of her crimes.
"It's not my fault," she tells him. "I wasn't even there." He says he doesn't know what she's talking about.
They're walking on the beach in Santa Monica, watching for the moment when the sun drops below the water line. It's late October, and the wind slices through her thin sweater. She never dresses warmly enough. Her husband stares at the sun, his eyes narrowed, the corners of his mouth drawn back in a scowl. She looks at the sun indirectly, pretending to scan the water for sailboats and then catching it out of the corner of her eye.
"Here it goes," he says, pulling at her sleeve. "You're not looking at it."
"I can see." The sun itself isn't much to look at; far lovelier, she thinks, are the colors tinging the clouds.
"You're going to miss it."
"You're missing it," he says, sounding satisfied. "There it goes. It's gone now."
She looks and sees that it is, indeed, gone. She has missed it.
"You missed it," he tells her.
She turns away from him and looks back toward the parking lot. A man in white shorts and a navy sweatshirt has a kite in the air. She likes the easy way he handles the string, stepping back, then forward, then back again, as if he and the kite are dancing. Such a man, she thinks, would have gentle hands. She imagines them on her face, in her hair. She closes her eyes.
"What are you doing?" her husband says. "Open your eyes. You're missing everything."
She opens her eyes.
"See the brown layer?" he says, pointing. "That's all smog."
He's right, as always.