“It’s a girls’ night; we’re not supposed to be good!” Margot was first to the sand, toes and elbows in one right after the other. A scream: “Shit!”
We hit the beach to find her lamenting in a wet, likely strawberry-flavored dune. Thirty-two ounces of daiquiri in a yellow plastic cup thrown to the flies.
“I’m fucked up, guys.” And then, “Dammit, I want my drink.”
We laughed and laughed, all of us tipping our own cups as we struggled to help her up in heels. “Fuck this,” Jeanette said and tossed hers – the heels, not the cup.
The night was young. We’d started at five at the Salsa Supper Club, ate mussels, clams, and three baskets of bread. We downed a pitcher of mojitos and two bottles of wine between the four of us as the sun peaked. Now our halter tops were falling and our skirts, too tight. On our way to the beach, we stopped at Mango’s for cocktails and started dancing. The place hadn’t come alive yet, but we didn’t care. The floor, still showing streaks from a half-assed mopping, was buzzing and so were we.
We stayed until the crowds came – single guys and their thirsty eyes, slobbering all over us in our beach-slut garb and eye shadow. It was too early for that, not even dark. We could still see the decisions we were making, so we ordered four big gulp daiquiris to go.
On our way out a Cuban approached Amber and mentioned something about her lipstick. I recognized the words: crema, labios. Then I realized he wasn’t talking about lipstick.
I pushed Amber out the door. “Ew, ew, ew.”
Margot and Jeanette followed. “What?”
When I explained they practically fell apart. People were staring. We howled all the way across the street, past the grass and onto the sand.
Now Margot was knee-deep in it, still uncontrollable. She took Jeanette’s hand, pulling her down on purpose, and Jeanette pretended to be pissed. But we were too seafood-stuffed and booze-logged to care about anything, so we laughed more, cursed each other, and eventually made it to shore. There were two topless women, right off the bat, just lying there with huge tan knockers, and we couldn’t not stare. “Yeah, baby,” Jeanette slurred and I spit frozen confetti into the air.
Amber was running, and we followed. The waves were coming up fast and sticking around, flirting with our ankles, making circles around our spinning bodies and twisting us deeper into the river of white grain, simultaneously grounding us and making us fly.
Lights were getting noticeable. And they weren’t just white. They were blue and pink and green. They were stripes and triangles. The sun was no longer visible, just past the curve of the earth where it had dropped without us realizing, and Ocean Drive was bustling behind us. Miami Deco pulsed and swayed. There was music. There were people shouting out of moon roofs. There was honking, and it was all the friendly kind. The water was warm, tropical (the way everyone said it would be), and creeping up our minis; it could have been bathwater. The breeze, like a hairdryer on the lowest setting, hit the wet parts as gently as a hum.
“Amy’s getting married!” shouted Amber, and she thrashed her arms from her waist to her head, sending an arc of salt water over our hairsprayed locks. To my left, the topless girls were gone. And just like that, the shark became clear.
I looked at Margot. If she didn’t see it maybe I didn’t, either. Next to Amber, Margot was the closest. Jeanette and I were nearest the beach, not as deep. We’d been wary to get too wet before hitting the club again. But Amber and Margot were drunk, wanted to play, and were ready to dive in headfirst.
“Shh,” Margot exhaled, and then I knew it was real and everything that happened after could never not be real ever again. The shark took Amber down and away from us so fast we didn’t even see her blood rise until we were back on dry land, screaming through the shockwave breaking our ears, others rushing and screaming with us, looking around for help that didn’t exist.
Margot threw up. It seemed like such a benign thing, throwing up. Everything we’d done up until that moment seemed benign. If I could tell Amber to go with the Cuban now I would. Then she wouldn’t be in a shark’s stomach; her limbs would not be at the bottom of the ocean.
They never found her. Everyone had an explanation with each passing hour, something to say: It was a freak accident; this never happens; they never come this close. Hours later in our hotel I called my fiancé, trembling and crying, unable to form logical sentences but needing his voice, his understanding. “S-s-s-something’s happened,” I stuttered. “The w-w-w-worst thing that could have happened.” Margot and Jeanette sat on the bed with me, slowly packing their belongings in the suitcases we’d brought.
On the other end, Michael’s voice was stiff. “You cheated on me,” he said into the receiver.
And I said, “Worse.”
The next morning I tried hard not to look out the window as the cab drove us to the airport, but there it was, just like the vast space on a globe, spiraling into view. It was everywhere. The big blue part. And like a monster it winked and waved at me, telling me not to fear, squeezing the air out of my lungs and whispering. Smooth as a promise, deep as a vow.
Joscelyn Willett very much dislikes boring bios. She also went to the gym recently and spotted a woman breathing like a dying fish while on the treadmill. We’re talking mouth completely stuck open, eyes bulged. She also dislikes that.
Lead image: “O0o” (via Flickr user Micah Camara)