We were lying on the beach. Marie, who felt the cold less than I did, had gone for a swim after our picnic. She’d come back to lie next to me, without drying off, enjoying the hot sun on her wet skin. She’d close her eyes and lie still. Then she’d go back for another swim when her skin was dry.
Every once in a while, I’d sit up and look at the time. I had slipped my watch into one of my shoes to protect it from the sand. It was only an eighteen dollar trinket that I had bought on the spur of the moment. A reaction to Marie’s sigh when I had mentioned wanting to buy a smart watch.
Marie and I had reached Ebihens Island by crossing the sandbank linking Chevet Point to the archipelago at low tide. There were lots of people crossing on foot. The sky was clear blue and free of clouds. It was hot and the ebb of the tide favored lunch on one of the island’s beaches.
However, pleasant as it was, a visit to the island always required you to be vigilant. The island was only accessible for about five hours and missing the window to return meant calling for help or waiting for the next low tide—nine hours later. There was no hotel, no restaurant. Not even a snack stand. Every year, careless people ended up trapped on the tiny island. So, since it was my responsibility to keep an eye on the time, I kept glancing at the watch in my shoe.
“It’s gorgeous here. This is the best weather. Enjoy it!” whispered Marie, without opening her eyes.
“It might be gorgeous,” I replied, “but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to watch the time.”
I had left my phone at home. Marie had insisted I not take it to the beach, and I had given in. Emails would be piling up in my work inbox, whether I was on vacation or not. I was waiting on the confirmation of a meeting with an important prospect we’d been chasing for months.
“Is it really that important?” she’d asked.
“It’s what’s paying for this vacation,” I said.
She shrugged her shoulders, saying she could remember us having some lovely vacations when I earned next to nothing, then she’d gone out into the garden to phone her mother, turning her back to the window through which I was watching her. So, when we were about to leave, I left my phone on the dining room table.
There were about twenty of us who had chosen this beach. Some, like ourselves, were dependent on the tides. For others, who had disembarked from the little sailing boats tied up by the rocks, time didn’t matter.
Marie was right. It was undeniably beautiful here. The fine, white sand beach was nestled in a little cove surrounded by dark blocks of granite with orange lichen clinging to them. Beyond the dunes, ferns softened the outlines of the island as they waved in the sea breeze. Here and there, pine trees, twisted by the wind, cast a little shade. No houses could be seen from the beach. We could have been at the ends of the earth, in another world, out in the wild. We had escaped from civilization.
I was lying in the sand, eyes closed, the sun and the sea breeze on my skin. Close by, groups of people began to pack up their things. I wanted to get up, but Marie stopped me. “We have all the time in the world,” she said. Her face relaxed. We had left our lives behind when we crossed the sandbank. Perhaps life is easier when you live in a place like this. I stayed lying down, Marie’s hand next to mine. I closed my eyes again and listened: the sea breeze, the sounds of the waves gently lapping closer, Marie’s soft humming in my ear.
When I finally stood up, the only people left were the ones from the boats. Marie groaned while I reached for my shoe. I looked around us. We were on the other side of the world, in a place from which no one would ever want to return. I took my watch, and without looking at the time, I threw it into the sea with all my strength. Then, I lied back down, taking Marie’s hand in mine.
Translated by Wendy Cross