Three young minutes walked along the shore. They moved at a bovine pace, their toes slurping up and spitting out dark blue sand, their curly red hair soaking in the fresh moonlight. They were brothers—triplets—and I’d have you know that their birth had been quick and painless and had occurred twenty-four years from the present.
“I think we’re pretty cute,” said the least attractive of the three, who went by Scrawny Liam. “Three brothers all together on Christmas.”
This didn’t inspire speech in either Émile or Harvey, who continued to march with their translucent necks strained forward and outward, as if bearing an invisible yoke. Turtle herds moved by in the water, hidden by the platinum sheen of moonlight on the ocean’s surface. Tigers lived in the mangroves beyond the dunes, and they were purring and licking sleep sand from their phosphorescent eyes. This was a beach for everyone and the turtles and the tigers.
“You know,” resumed Scrawny Liam, “When we were kids, I used to hate it that Christmas was on my birthday. Also, that you guys’ birthday was on my birthday. I was like, shit, I don’t think this is normal. But now, I think it’s pretty cute.” Scrawny Liam scratched his scalp, grinning. “I miss those days. We were much less adorable then, of course. We didn’t have this great bro-thing like now. Cause we hated each other, which is probably normal. I think about this stuff all the time, seriously. You remember that Christmas in Canada? Everyone was looking for Émile, and then I found you sitting in our snow-fort from the day before. You were holding a turkey sandwich, because you’d sleepwalked out there with a sandwich. We were amusing children, weren’t we?”
Émile smiled inattentively.
“Some of my best memories are of sleeping in college,” replied Harvey. “That’s how I met Melisa. It was our birthday, and I went into my room to go to sleep, but then I sleepwalked right out again and down the hall and opened her door. We started making out, and that’s how I woke up, and I tell you, that was a pretty sweet way to wake up. She says it happened because she put mistletoe over her door for Christmas, but I think it only happened because I was asleep. Pretty excellent, at any rate.”
Émile thought about college. He remembered his thesis on the Seven Years War and the white cords of Christmas lights strung up around a dining hall that smelled like tomato sauce. His mind kissed the smiles of untraceable people who no longer existed. Émile was beautiful, with dark red hair and healthy red lips and startlingly reflective eyes. I’ve known my share of dark fervid men with shiny eyes, and Émile looked exactly like all of them.
“Someone’s dead, but your relationship with them and your memories of them keep moving,” he said quietly. A tiger in the mangroves purred and opened identical dark eyes to the night. “All of us were moving all the time in college. Oh Jesus, the things that I missed ate at me horribly at the time. I could have screamed, or even done something artistic. I did scream a lot then, I remember.”
You’re not going to know what Émile pined for in college, because I don’t know myself. He could have been hung up over an idea, or a beautiful girl with long hair. Perhaps he missed his mother, or longed for a time that was far from the present, or maybe he just missed opportunities, which is normal. I find Émile’s complexity admirable, and besides, I have been in love with his gorgeous face for years. Émile likes a good action-adventure, and he’d accustomed himself to thinking of this walk as some sort of charged escapade into the wild. I’ll tell you something certain: Émile and his brothers were walking, and it happened in the present.
Harvey noticed that his breath came and went in rhythm with the surf, and this fact lit him up with an assuring, private sense of the profound. Asymmetrically smiling, he strongly resembled the mother of the three minutes.
Scrawny Liam silently continued to march, breathing out dejection with each choppy exhale. He imagined the appearance of an armed drone on the horizon, disturbing the air and churning the mangrove tops. It would approach from the direction in which they were walking, and they would not change their pace as it cut through the air towards them. The drone might hover over them, moving with them, and Scrawny Liam enjoyed how the artificial wind would cause the red curls to seethe on his brothers’ heads.
“I’d love a sandwich and a coffee about now,” said Harvey. “And it’s been such a while since I’ve seen Melisa.”
So, I’m here with your Christmas turkey sandwiches came a woman’s voice in Scrawny Liam’s imagination. It floated down from the drone along with many sandwiches. And I’ve got real coffee here, instead of that decaf shit from last time—sorry about that, friends. The coffee was ejected as well, and it tumbled through the balmy air.
“You’re pretty cute,” Scrawny Liam said aloud.
Harvey’s friendly, pensive face turned to consider his brother. “Melisa says that no one’s cute after having children,” he proposed as a matter of interest. “She says that children sap the cuteness right out of you, like maple syrup.”
“I don’t think so,” said Scrawny Liam.
“She says that time would be a poem if we didn’t have to live it.”
“Are you saying we use it up, then?” said Émile, his voice laced with adrenaline. “That we use time up?”
“I don’t understand,” Scrawny Liam said.
“We don’t do that,” said Émile. “It’s not something on the outside of us. It’s not like a poem in any way.”
You’re juvenile, thought Harvey. He averted his blue eyes to contemplate the shiny surface of the ocean. He didn’t know these parts, and his discomfort flowed easily among them.
“It’s getting late,” Scrawny Liam observed. “I wish the coffee earlier hadn’t been decaf, but it’s so nice to have a hot coffee on the beach at night.” While his feet treaded onward, the tide ingested swallows of sand, swallow by rhythmic swallow, and his mind retraced the steps of their conversation backward along the strip of beach. “I think I could read poetry and keep walking at the same time,” he said. “I could do that, without even thinking about it.”