By David Daniel
He remembered that first time.
“Oh my God!” Lucinda had squealed. “Thank you!”
William blushed when she kissed him. “It’s only glass.” He’d been careful to pitch it between modesty and outright apology.
“It’s as good as a diamond, or a pearl. Better! It’s personal and one of a kind.”
“I know you like beach glass,” he’d said. And, holding hands, off they’d gone, walking into the soft summer darkness of the park.
Where was Lucinda now? And Janis and Bonnie and Gwen and so many others. Fiona and Faye. He didn’t know, but he smiled at the knowledge that he had shown all of them a little romance.
He hardly could have foreseen it all those years ago when he first came upon Rainbow Beach. That was the name he gave it and he had thought of it from time to time in the decades since. He’d been barely seventeen, out with his friend Ken on Ken’s boat, fishing in Boston harbor. It was hot and the fish hadn’t been biting, so they anchored off one of the harbor islands and took a break. William donned a dive mask and snorkel and swam into the cove.
Which was where he found it.
The water was clear, a flicker with shimmering bands of sunlight, and he realized that what he had taken for a bottom of small stones was actually something else. He dove and plucked up a handful and went ashore. It was true. Sea glass. Even the steep slope of the beach was glass, thousands of pieces, all smoothed to an almost silken softness. They tinkled and shushed under his bare feet as he walked.
Later he would come to understand that it was a phenomenon of the tides and currents that somehow swept up every bottle tossed into the harbor—and in those days there were a lot—and carried them into this small cove on the uninhabited island. Some of them inevitably broke on the rocks or simply filled with water and sank, and the unceasing action of the waves did their work. William gathered up handfuls, filled a pair of plastic bags.
There was white glass, and the green and brown of beer bottles, the blue which he imagined came from medicine vials that had been used back in the old days at the hospital for incurables on another island. There were also rarer colors—the soft pinkish glass (of the kind he’d given to Molly, his first true girlfriend) and even a burnt orange—of the sort he’d once fashioned into a small necklace by drilling holes in the smooth shards and passing a strand of silk string through and presented to Dineen, whom he had almost married.
And over the years, he had found that it was the perfect touch of romance to give girls, and then women, a small gift from the sea, such presentations usually prefaced by a brief tale of having found it just the day before and kept it with her in mind. It wouldn’t have been good policy to tell of Rainbow beach.
And now, after a lifetime of romancing women, he had just about run out of sea glass. There was but one piece remaining in his secret stash. He could no longer remember where that cove, or even the island, was. Lately he had begun to study a map of the harbor, hoping it might jog a memory of that long ago fishing trip, but there were a lot of islands. He would even have called the friend, except Ken had suffered a stroke and was living on the west coast.
So what to do? Give away this last piece to Jasmine? She was alluring, tall, ten years younger than his fifty. And she knew her own mind. But suppose it wasn’t Jasmine he would want to stay with? What if he met someone new, more exotic and exciting, younger, next week, next month, next year?
Romance enough for a lifetime and now he was out of glass. Maybe it was a sign. Jasmine was a prize, after all. His heart swelling with hope, he held out the piece of smooth pale green glass. “I found this and thought of you,” he said.
Jasmine’s eyes sharpened. “What the hell is it?”
“It’s beach glass.”
“What’re you givin’ it to me for?”
“Well, the color, kind of like your eyes. And it’s unique.” He stepped back. “I found it for you.”
“There’s broken glass everywhere.”
“Yeah, but feel it. It’d take a hundred years for—”
“If this is supposed to substitute for real jewelry, Billy boy, forget it!” She drew back and flung it way out into the water, where William could only watch as it sank beneath the waves, hope sinking with it.