Rachel hardly heard the sound of the water anymore. She had to coax her mind to separate out the regular rhythm of the rise and fall of each wave against the wide stretch of sand, to keep it separate from the steady crunch of her Danskos against the grit as she walked parallel to the waves, to keep it separate from the familiar thunder of her heart. Two days on the Oregon coast and already Rachel could feel the ocean seizing her like a singular sneaker wave, filling the cracks between her bones and her sinew with the salty gore of the sea. 

“You should live by the ocean,” Christopher said, extracting half a sand dollar from its circular niche in the sand. The other half had vanished into the waters, leaving the carcass of this sea creature cross-sectioned. While Jack adjusted the lens on his camera Megan touched her fingers to the gaping hole. 

“I live in Delaware,” Rachel said, the name of that place sounding strange, distant. “The ocean’s right there.”

“It’s not right outside your window, like it is here.”

“Then you move here. Where does the ocean meet Portland? Hmm?”

Laughing, Rachel, Christopher, Megan and Jack clamored into the swings planted in the middle of the beach, as if marooned from a state park. Christopher pushed Megan’s swing for a while and then grabbed hold of both chains, bellowed, and ran forward under the swing set, heaving her toward the ocean and ducking under her as she shrieked and laughed. On her own descent back to earth Rachel dragged her foot in the sand and her pendulous journey slowed. 

“When are you leaving?” she asked Jack, who had hopped off his swing and backed from ocean toward the boardwalk. 

As he held his camera up to capture the girls on their swings, Jack offered her a rakish smile. “Overmorrow, but of course.”

Rachel rolled her eyes and pushed off from the sand, soaring up toward the ocean. She reminded herself to hold the water away from her body, to hear the waves above her heart.