Vassar Student Review

Vassar Student Review

Low Tide

Anastasia Koutavas

The red kelp that January keeps coming back to me now. Like rope it was knotted along the shore, sprinkled all around us on the barren beachfront. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, except I noticed the seagulls wouldn’t even touch the tangled bunches. Like birds of prey, they locked eyes with you as you separated red leaves from salted stems, joining them together in handfuls. We were in awe of the color, we truly were, though I had pretended that I had seen it before. You, on the other hand, had jumped over the dunes that winter, excited to meet the shoreline; I had watched from a mesmerizing distance, digging foot-shaped holes in the sand with my sneakers. Fine grains found their way into the cracks of my soles, bringing unshakable moisture to the tips of my toes. I couldn’t mind, though; I was too busy immortalizing you that winter, waves foaming at your feet as you knelt above the drying plants. Soon, the Pacific would wash them—wash you—away, but I wondered then, like I do now, if I should have joined you. 

I’ve returned since then, right to the place underneath the pier where we first spotted the red kelp. I have seen it now more times than you have, that funny looking plant, scattered along coastlines you once told me you wanted to acquaint yourself with. I’ve dusted mixtures of sand and salt from the plant’s surface, holding it up against the sun’s light to inspect it as I think you would. The red coloring, almost like dye, has seeped onto my skin and stained my fingertips; I never noticed your hands being painted in this way. Like you, though, I run my hands under the crashing waves, hoping they come out cleaner than I put them in. 

When I return my attention to the shore, to the red kelp that reminds me of you, I can never find a piece worth taking. I think maybe a seagull has finally changed its pace; maybe it has observed you, learning how to pick the finest flowers in the deep winter season. Or maybe you, with grit under your nails, return to the shore at low tide to peel kelp from the sand where it has remained.


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