Our Beautiful Bodies
The ground sears the sole of my foot as I step out of the hotel onto the concrete, and I give a hiss of pain, instinctively edging back inside. I’ve underestimated the strength of the heat, the sun already burning the stone even at this early hour. I’ve allowed myself to be deceived by the sight of the breakfast area still being cleared by the waiting staff, forgetting that in this resort, at this time of year, it doesn’t need to be the afternoon before a cloudless sky starts to do its work on the land beneath.
I consider what to do. Do I turn back, return to the lobby and take the lift back up to my room to retrieve a pair of sandals? No. Even avoiding the stairs, that journey will take far too much out of me, given how worse for wear I already am after the stupidity of last night. By the time I get back up to my floor, I’ll want to do nothing more than fall onto the bed and sleep for hours. So I clench my teeth, brace myself for a few moments of pain, and step purposefully back out onto the paving.
It’s every bit as unbearable as I expect, and I shift from one foot to the other as quickly as I can in my condition, searching desperately for any sign of Mum and Dad as I head for the poolside. I scan the rows of sun loungers, almost all occupied with lightly burnt holidaymakers, until I finally spot Mum waving to me, unable to hide her laughter as she sees me hopping from one foot to the other like a demented bird. Dad, meanwhile, is asleep with his book hanging precariously off the side of the lounger, his snores audible the moment I reach them and sit down on the spare seat they’ve saved for me.
Mum gives me the expected rebuke about how I should have had the common sense not to come down without my sandals, to which I retort that the journey back up to fetch them would have drained me, knowing full well that her reply, as it indeed does, will point out my foolishness in having had alcohol with a large meal last night. I can’t argue with her logic, so I grudgingly accept the telling off, and agree to her offer to rub some sunscreen on my back, turning round to face the pool as she takes the bottle from her bag, and applies some to her hands.
The water is full of children laughing and splashing about, some on floats being pushed about by their parents, and I feel the inevitable pang of envy at not being able to join them in my state, resigned instead to a gentle dip later on, once I’ve recovered from the frantic dash to get here. I resist the urge to feel sorry for myself about how unfair it all is, though, given that the extent of the discomfort I’m in right now is largely self-inflicted. Instead, I simply watch the scenes before me, breathing in slowly, and applying the relaxation techniques I’ve been learning in my meditation classes back home. As Mum rubs the Factor 50 across my back in a gentle rhythm, and I start to let myself be soothed by the sounds of the children playing, it begins to work.
And then I see him.
Frankly, it’s hard to miss him. Glancing away from the water, up towards the poolside opposite, I catch sight of him sitting with his eyes closed, while an older man whom I assume to be his father rubs some protection across his back, just as Mum is doing for me. Even with his eyes shut, he’s beautiful. Visibly tall, somewhere between lean and muscular, the upper body of a swimmer. Wavy, fair, shoulder-length hair, skin lightly tanned in contrast to the otherwise crimson torsos that surround us. I blink as I stare across at him, my body automatically seizing up, and I sense Mum looking to see what’s caught my attention. She remarks that he looks nice, and I can hear the smile in her voice. Dad, meanwhile, continues to snore loudly beside us.
He does look nice. More than nice. Face of a model, upper body of an athlete. And yet, there’s something in his features, something in his calm, contented expression as his eyes remain shut and he lets his father continue rubbing his back, that suggests he’d never seek out either the vanity of a modelling career, or the publicity of a sporting one. Someone modest about their aesthetic good fortune, not boastful of it. I imagine he leaves the people he crosses paths with a little bit in love with him. A perfect combination of gorgeous and unassuming.
Then he opens his eyes, and I know that must be true.
His eyes are bluer than the water beneath us. Bluer than the sky overhead, bluer than the umbrella canopies sheltering us from the heat of the sun. They’re almost luminous, as he stares casually around the resort, smiling gently at the antics of the children in the pool, before squinting up at the sun for a moment. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever seen more attractive eyes, and I’m not sure whether he can possibly get any more beautiful, when he suddenly turns and looks directly at me.
It’s like being struck by lightning. An actual charge shoots through my body as he stares at me, and I hear Mum chuckle behind me. It’s like his eyes see inside me, past the exterior and into every thought, every feeling and emotion currently swirling around inside my head. I’m convinced in that moment that he knows exactly what I’m thinking, that he’s some sort of low-level telepath, because the look he gives me indicates that he’s heard every one of my thoughts. And the fact that he then smiles at me as he engages in this burst of mind-reading is very, very encouraging.
Because right now, I’m imagining him, without a word, subtly nodding towards the beach, before standing up, revealing himself to be even taller than I expected, and confidently walking off down the pathway toward the sea, leaving my Mum to, with precision timing, finish her application of sunscreen to my back, and quietly urge me to follow after him. I imagine hurrying back across the concrete, the pain nowhere near as bad this time, and jogging down the path, away from the palm trees and sun loungers of the resort, onto the beach below. I imagine searching for him along the beach, before finally spotting a waving figure out in the sea, leisurely bobbing amongst the surf, and I make my way down to the water’s edge before wading out.
I imagine catching up to him quickly, and the two of us lying back and floating in the gentle current, properly introducing ourselves and exchanging small talk. Then I imagine him turning and, with a powerful kick of his toned legs, propelling himself forward like the professional swimmer he surely ought to have been, inviting me to follow after him in a spontaneous race. I do, and we slice back and forth through the waves with perfect synchronicity, as though in tune with one another, instinctively knowing the other’s patterns, styles and techniques, all the while laughing and flirting like we’ve known each other for years.
Then I imagine us wading back out, back onto the beach, my eyes unable to avoid the way his shorts cling to his waist, or the way the hair on the back of his legs is matted to his skin by the water, or the way the surf splashes gently about his feet as he takes the final few steps back onto dry land. I imagine following him back up to the loungers, where, after a few lengths in the pool, we sit down by the palm trees and eye one another expectantly. Both of us knowing exactly what’s about to happen next.
All my earlier discomfort is long-forgotten as I close my room door behind us, and take a long, proper look at him. If anything, he’s become even more handsome than he was before. Then, suddenly, his mouth is on mine, hurried, insistent. Desperate to be as close to me as possible. Swimwear soon lies on the bedroom floor, and we’re making love in the bed for what seems like hours, the two of us seeming to know exactly what buttons to press, exactly what places to tease, exactly how to make each other moan in delight. Our bodies, beautiful, fit, in their prime, move against each other even more harmoniously than our race back at the beach. As though designed for each other. By the time it’s over, I’m in tears at how good it was. At how right it feels lying there with him, hearing him murmur and joke and stroke my hair as we both relax into the afterglow.
Then I realise I really am in tears, or that at least one is slipping its way down my cheek as I find myself back at the poolside, staring across at him as my imagination finally runs its course, and the spell that transported me to the beach and then into bed with him finally breaks. He seems to frown, probably wondering why I look so emotional, before casually looking away again and back to the pool. Quite possibly having never smiled at me in the first place—there’s a good chance I imagined that too.
I stare at him for another moment, desperate to cling onto the fantasy for as long as I can. Then I see his father stand up and nod towards the snack bar further down the resort, before starting to walk off in that direction. I hope, for a precious few seconds, that his son will look my way again before he leaves, but he doesn’t. Instead, he turns, places his hands down by his sides, and slowly wheels himself along after his father. Calm contentment once again on his face as he goes. I stare after the wheelchair for another few moments, until, at last, Mum taps me on the back, and I surrender to real life again.
She asks me if I’ve taken my painkillers yet, and I admit I haven’t. With a knowing sigh, she urges me to do so now, especially after the idiocy of overeating and taking alcohol last night, and reaches into her bag for the spares she always carries with her. Offering me her bottle of water, she waits for me to swallow them down, which I do. The daily ritual to keep my chronic pain at bay fulfilled for another few hours.
Mum gives me a gentle pat, before settling down to sleep on her lounger while I settle onto mine, lying on my front and savouring the warmth of the sun on my back, still wet from the sun cream. Within moments, the exertion of the dash across the concrete earlier having tired me out, I’m starting to fall asleep.
I dream of two bodies, moving in harmony together. Fit, healthy and beautiful.