is an online magazine of the literary arts.

2 September 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 3

To Morning

Kaya is missing. She is nowhere on the beach and Steve is worried that she's gone swimming, and has slipped drunk into the ocean and drowned. But the tide has gone out since last night and he would have seen her race down the wet sand and into the water. He hopes he would have heard her splashing.

He slept on the porch of the boathouse, and woke when the morning sun pushed its way through the railing and into his eyes. The rest of the wedding party is sleeping on the beach. They lay sprawled like driftwood, limbs curled up against their bodies, toes stuck under the sand for warmth. Some are huddled in groups, their bodies melting into one another, bums against crotch, in clumps of three or four, their arms under their heads, over their neighbor's waist, between their own knees to keep the body heat going. Some are by themselves against logs, propped like puppets, heads limp, mouths open and snoring.

Some are still awake, even now as the blue light of 6 a.m. is crouching along the sand. There's a group of men sitting down by the water, four of them leaning on a log, passing around a cigar and skipping rocks into the water. One man has his pants rolled up to his knees and has begun to wade into the surf. There is foam around his ankles, thick as root beer. Steve shuffles over to them, straining his eyes to look across the water at the Stanley Park seawall. He can see the stones that hold the wall, and the dark blue-green trees that cover the land above it. On the left cars are already backed up on the Lions Gate Bridge. He wonders if Kaya caught a late bus to city.

"You seen Kaya?" He asks the boys with the cigar, and steals a drag himself. "Can't find her."

"She mighta gone home," says the one with pants rolled up.

"But I was her ride," he says.

"Check the tents. Maybe she crashed in there."

Behind them, on the grass, are three white tents with high ceilings, the door flaps left untied and whipping viciously against the tent sides. White paper napkins litter the ground. One boy is sprawled across three chairs on the lawn; he's managed to sleep with his bum drooping between them. Steve shakes him lightly, but the boy simply flips his body to its side and grunts, so Steve pulls away the chair that supports his legs and his feet fall to the ground.

"What?" asks the boy, angry as if he's been woken from a restful sleep.

"Is Kaya around here? You seen her anywhere?"

"I dunno man, I've been sleeping." He resorts to lying on the grass, and wraps his tuxedo jacket in a ball to use as a pillow.

It has been a long night. At nine they were clean and sparkling, women with glitter on their cheeks, their hair dancing in curls and smelling of roses. The men were like black and white shadows of each other. They all ate in sequence, together in a knot of noise and laughter and anxiousness. Pasta or chicken, everyone eating the same food different ways, the odd person standing to make a drunk toast to the bride and groom.

The happy couple has gone by now, swallowed by the ten o'clock chimes and by the white limousine that stole them from this party. Now it is nearly dawn and the party is over.

Yesterday he picked Kaya up at the ferry. She came down the escalator and into the lobby with a huge smile and bounded into his arms. Her skin was a dark summer brown, her hair streaked with fake blond and pulled back into a ponytail that whipped into his eyes when she turned her head to hug him.

"You have no idea how happy I am to see you," she said. "Without you, this night would suck, guaranteed."

This was the first time he'd seen her in two years, although they'd talked on the phone a few times, but she hugged him openly, handed him her purple backpack and took his arm. "I need about an hour to get ready, plus I need to take a shower," she said. "I smell like ferry food."

"That's fine," he said, surprised at her affection, and began to lead her to his jeep.

"So who's all going to be there?"

"Mostly high school people, I think."

"Gross. Why am I here? Do these people not have any new friends?" She waited for him to open the jeep door then started playing with the radio buttons as soon as he turned the ignition.

"Hey, they're alright. I still see a lot of them."

"Yeah, well if they had to invite me to flesh out this party, then that's just sad."

"I guess they like you."

"Enough to invite me to their wedding? I haven't seen them since grad."

"It's kind of a reunion too, I guess."

"Ha. They probably had to call my mom to get my new address."

"No, they asked me."

"You selling my personal information now?" There was sudden anger in her voice, and she turned her head to stare at him, her jaw clenched.

"No." He shrugged, and was quiet, concentrated on the road.

She put her hand on his leg, then punched him hard in the shoulder, laughing. "I'm kidding," she said. "Jesus, I'm kidding."

On the beach now, he retraces their steps, from their seats in the reception tent to their walk along the sand and onto the seawall, to the tiny room at the back of the yacht club. Her sweater is still there, balled up in the corner, crumpled and dirty. He picks it up and ties it around his waist, and the sleeves hang loosely, limp. There are sparkles smeared against the window where Kaya's shoulder touched. But Kaya is not there.

The sun floods his vision when he opens the door; it is already bright in the sky, and there is heat everywhere now. It is August and the sun is strong. His thin cotton pants seal to thighs, and her sweater from the night before seem ridiculous. A dribble of sweat inches its way down his back, following the spin as if it were a canyon housing rivers.

Driving from the ferry Steve became lost, took the wrong exit and drove toward New Westminster instead of to West Vancouver.

"I think we're going the wrong way," she said, turning in her seat to look where they should have turned.

"No, I think this goes the right way, eventually." He handed her the map from a pocket on the door of the jeep, and she unfolded it slowly, trying to find them on it.

"I can't read this," she said, "try turning off here."

"You sure?"

"No, but let's try it."

So they took the exit and suddenly were heading back to the ferries, and she laughed when they saw the signs pointing to Tswassen. He pulled into a gas station.

"Let me pay you for gas," she said.

"No way."

"I'm not paying for you to fill up, but I'll pay for fucking up the directions."

"You don't need to give me money." He stepped out of the jeep and started to pump gas.

But already she was fumbling with her purse, sticking her hands into pockets, checking her coat. She pulled out a leathery five-dollar bill.

"Ha ha," she said through the window. "Here, take it."

"No way," he said again.

So she waited for him to turn his back to put back the pump. Slowly, she opened the ashtray on the door of the jeep and slid the five inside, folded neatly into a square.

"I saw that."

"You didn't see a thing."

They drove to Steve's apartment off Lonsdale in North Vancouver. His building neighbored an adult video rental shop with red flashing lights and newspaper covering the windows.

"Nice location," she said.

"Hey, I only rent from Rogers."

"Yeah, right."

He carried her bag upstairs to his apart