Tianxing Ma

Megan E. McKenzie

Living & Dying

We were out on the beach playing with paddles, a game with a name I could never remember. Our young lives shone bright in that November sun. Adrian and I weren’t really that young, but I felt like I could live forever.

A potbellied, life-weathered man yelled things we couldn’t understand from his seat on the sand a short distance away. His beat-up leather skin had been worn by the beach like driftwood in the sun. He was crazy, drunk, or high—maybe all three. His shouts were garbled by the waves and the wind. Our game was like the tide, pushing us in his direction. As his words became audible, we realized he’d been keeping score, the referee of a game that he hadn’t been invited to between two people he didn’t know. According to him, I was winning. He wanted to play. I felt vulnerable in my beachy near-nudity and Adrian was put off, so we moved in the other direction.

The man got up and walked toward us. We looked at each other incredulously as he approached. Adrian instinctively took a defensive stance in front of me and attempted to tell this bum to piss off in the nicest way possible. He kept talking at us, though, adjusting his filthy cap and slipping shorts, asking to play the game with us. Adrian decided to entertain him.

“Where you from, man?”

“Chicago,” the stranger replied.

“That’s a beautiful city.”

“How bout you guys?”

“I’m from here. She’s from L.A,” Adrian replied. “What brought you to Miami?”


“What do you do?”

“Electrician. Miami was good to me—then I lost my job.”

“Sucks,” Adrian said sympathetically. “I’m sorry,” I said. “Maybe those girls will play with you.” The man turned around, seeing the topless girls behind him that he hadn’t noticed. He turned back to us, wide-eyed and flustered, and yelled a startled “Hey!”, the remark he used to mean just about anything—punctuation, stalling, surprise. He had trouble focusing on us. He looked back at the breasts on display and to us again. And suddenly, he asked if we were married.


“How long?”

“Two years—and we still like each other.”


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