The Writer’s Corner features poetry, essays, short stories, satire and various fiction and non-fiction from SCAD Atlanta students. To submit your own work for the Writer’s Corner, email features@scadconnector.com.

Ocean Viewfinder by Allison Hambrick

I remember the way it smelled like you — sort of like firewood, sort of like freshly mowed grass. It was soft, well-worn. You claimed you had it since eighth grade. I’d believe it. The first time I wore it was the first time we met. 

The chilly autumn night signaled the end of summer and the coming of winter. My friends forced me to go along with them to some teenage rager. There was a keg and bonfire. I was tempted to move closer to the fire, and so I took the risk. 

As I stepped forward to warm my hands, I felt a presence move behind me. 

“What’s a pretty girl like you doing over here all by herself?” 

A hand that wasn’t yours tried to shove a red solo cup into mine. His eyes burned golden in the glow of the flames, and his smirk reflected its orange. I took the cup cautiously and turned to face the ocean. He followed. 

“You never answered my question,” he said. 

“I suppose I didn’t.” 

“So?” 

“I was by myself because I wanted to be by myself.” 

He went silent, the waves crashing becoming the only soundtrack. I sipped the warm beer gingerly and winced. Why on earth did people enjoy this grotesque sludge? Several refills later, I began to understand the appeal. My inhibitions melted away, and he enjoyed every minute of it. 

“Come on!” I yelled at him, tugging clumsily at his arm. 

“You’re crazy,” he said with a chuckle. 

I started ripping my clothes off and tossing them across, completely unaware of the growing crowd of spectators. Catcalls and yells were hurled my way. Girls threw out insults. I just kept laughing and dancing further into the waves. The waves. The gentle, cascading waves. They reached my ankles, then my knees, then my waist. The rough, cold waves. My feet slipped out from under me. I tumbled. I rolled. I gasped. Seconds felt like minutes. My only sight was the moon, distorted through the ever changing lens created by the ocean. 

I felt a jerk. Something pulling me out. My eyes stung as they reached air. I looked up at the figure carrying me. Tall, male, wearing a white tank top. Wet, soaking wet. Jesus, that was my fault, wasn’t it? Gratitude coursed through my veins upon realizing what had just happened. The figure sat me on the ground. Safe. I looked into his eyes, blue like the moon through the viewfinder of the ocean. Not the boy from before. You. 

You reached around my shoulders with your jacket. Warmth. It hadn’t been long since you took it off. 

“Nothing to see here,” you shouted, dispersing the crowd, “Are you okay?” 

“Embarrassed, mostly.” 

“Do you want me to take you home?” 

“Yeah, but, um, do you know where my clothes are?” 

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they’re gone, my dear.” 

I sighed and slid my arms into your jacket. Luckily, you had about a foot on me, so its length easily reached the middle of my thigh. We walked in silence a little way down the beach to where your jeep was parked. Oh how I hated that tacky thing, looking as if it was held together by bumper stickers. You held the door open for me, and politely turned your head as I indelicately hoisted myself into your passenger side. 

Climbing into the front, you put the key in the ignition, filling the front seat with Spin Doctors. 

“Ugh, I already had a headache from nearly dying. Now you’re just adding insult to injury,” I said. 

“And who do you have to thank for that not happening?” 

I shrugged and rolled my eyes as you cranked up the volume and belted “Two Princes” at the top of your lungs. Every guy in school was at that party, and you had to be the one to pull me out. I remained silent for the rest of the ride home, apart from the occasional direction, while you made awkward stabs at conversation, including asking me if I had fun at the party. 

We pulled up in front of my parents’ house, but instead of immediately getting out I hesitated. The imposing brick of the wall reminded me that I was about to walk into an interrogation. Why are you soaking wet? Where are your clothes? Are you drunk? Answer me, young lady. 

“Do you want me to go in with you?” you finally asked. 

“Yeah, that’ll go over well. Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. I got so drunk this random stranger fished me out of the ocean. Meet … Wait, what is your name?” 

“Didn’t think you’d ask. Grant,” you said, extending a hand. 

“Candace,” I responded, returning his handshake and hastily making my exit. 

“Candace, wait!” you yelled. I turned to face you, shivering in the cold. 

“What?!” 

“You forgot to give me back my jacket.” 

I made a crude hand gesture at you and disappeared into the threshold of my garage door. If I had it to do over again, I’d turn around, run straight back into that jeep and plant one on you right then and there. Back then you were just the kind boy with the garbage music who dared to go in after a drunk idiot. We didn’t know what the future held for me and what it didn’t hold for you. 

I remember you. I remember the way you smelled like firewood and grass. I remember how it felt in your embrace. I remember your tacky jeep, flipped over on the side of the interstate. I remember crawling out of the wreckage, still wearing your hoodie years later. I remember you not doing the same.