The early morning gentle waves frothed her feet. She glanced up and down the beach. She was, as she wanted to be, alone.
She met him in October, at a pub watching the Redskins lose to the Cowboys. She wasn’t from DC, so didn’t really care. He was, and took solace in her smile and her southern drawl banter. She was with her swim team friends, but they slowly moved along to another bar or party. She stayed, and he served her another beer and more smiles.
At last call, he told her to wait for him to check out, and then he walked her home to the townhouse she shared with friends. She gave him her phone number so he could text her he made it home ok. And he did. And they talked until the sun took back the night.
He was a senior at Howard and was waiting to hear from American University Law for enrollment next semester. He still lived at home. His bartender tips helped pay for books and his mama’s load bringing up his two little brothers.
She was at Georgetown, swimming her final year and studying communications. Her parents in Charleston paid for her off-campus housing and her monthly allowance for necessities like food and Ralph Lauren jeans.
Over the phone, the banter stopped and they talked about the election coming up. They had similar taste in politics, music, movies and running. A date was made to run the Mall the next day. And they kept running, and dating, and over the next months, loving ensued.
At her last swim meet, her parents came for the ceremonial senior recognition. After, they went to the Harbor for lunch, and he met them there for the first time. Polite, empty questions. Awkward silences. White hands shaking a black man’s with curt “Lovely to meet yous” through emotionless faces.
“Not what we expected.”
“Are you getting serious? How serious?”
“Might be ok here in DC, but can you imagine in our family?”
He came to her graduation a few months later along with his little brothers and mama. Her parents didn’t reply to her invites. She started a job at a PR firm soon after, and they found a little apartment near American where his classes would start in the fall.
He was shot in the alley behind the bar while he took the trash out at closing time. No suspect, no motive except he was a black man in the nation’s capital.
The funeral was yesterday. She sat with his mama and the boys. She drove to Bethany as the sun was coming up over the Eastern Shore.
She dove in and swam as hard as she ever had. The words she had always used for motivation ringing in her ears: It’s all me. It’s all me.
Her arms became heavier and her legs slowed. She stopped and looked to the sun and screamed, “It’s only me, but I need you.” She let herself sink.