Without Permission

Tommy Dean

Tommy Dean

The man snapped the picture without permission. Legs coltish, but with the smoothness of an eel. It’s her first time in the ocean, though so far only the skin around and below her knees is wet. The waves seethe at her heels. For this second, the beach is hers, as the frame captures her alone, a single shell stuck in the sand.

Her mouth opens, and the photographer thinks of a kiss from another girl, on a different beach. In the Midwest, near the Lake Michigan, he had tumbled down a dune, trying to show off. The girl hadn’t paused to wipe the grit from his lips. He continues to search for her spirit, skipping among the waves.

“Wait,” she says, as the photographer moves further down the beach. Shock fades to interest. She’s come here – spring break maybe – to lose something: virginity, identity, her fear of the world, and its plans for her. She desperately wants to live as something more than a shadow.

“My brother drowned,” she shouts to the sea.

Somewhere, in a magazine, she’ll live forever.


  1. This was lovely. Sorrowful and lovely.

  2. The girl hadn’t paused to wipe the grit from his lips. – LOVE this sentence. Says sooo much.

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