Toes In The Sand

by Northern Life

BY Lucy Carrick

I push my feet deeper into the sand and feel the tiny fragments seep in between my toes. The sand is warm, heated by the morning sun. It is still early; there are some people running along the sand, some people walking dogs, some children playing already. It must be hard to run on sand, to feel the weight of your body sinking and try to force it up. I think maybe I will begin to run now. Running by the sea seems like a nice thing to do.

I moved last week. I have always wanted to live by the beach. I tell myself I will come for gentle walks in the evening and I might buy a dog. I’m allergic to dogs but I’m pretending not to be.

I hear a man shouting, a deep, gruff voice traveling over the sound of the waves. My toes unwillingly curl into themselves; the specs of sand press against my skin uncomfortably. I turn my head slowly, as though it will break if I make a sudden movement, as though I am made of fine China.

I don’t know the man who’s yelling. Of course I don’t. He doesn’t even look remotely similar. This man has soft blonde hair, a thin trail of stubble across his face. He’s yelling for his child. Probably yelling out of concern.

I felt a lump swelling in my throat.

I take a deep breath and turn back to watch the sea, force myself to instead focus on the crashing of the waves, the way they fall into one another. I focus on the salty air pressing against my skin. I dig my hands into the sand and focus on the feel of these tiny, insignificant rocks. I try to think of anything to calm my heart rate. It is like my body is disconnected from my mind and refuses to listen to it.

I feel as though I can taste the salt water and I realise there are tears on my face. I hate myself for it. I wipe my cheeks with the back of my wrist and wonder what it would feel like to instead rub the sand into my eyes and all over my face.

I want to buy some items for my flat today. It seems odd to think of the new place as my flat. It is not really mine, it has nothing inside that I own apart from a few clothes that I didn’t choose myself and don’t particularly like anyway. I’m not sure what I would wear with my own choice. I’m also not paying for the flat. My sister has rented it out for me and given me enough money to live on for a few weeks. I have said I will pay her back when I get a job and money, but the prospect of that feels entirely remote. I haven’t worked in years, haven’t had my own money in a lifetime. I’ve decided I will try to apply for some jobs tomorrow but I don’t know how to write a CV, how to do any of this.

My body freezes at the sound of someone coming home to a flat upstairs…

“I promise I will pay you back.” I had said to my sister after she drove me down. I felt a lump swelling in my throat. I hadn’t seen my sister in months but she had still helped me for a reason I cannot understand.

“Don’t be silly. Will you be okay on your own? You should be staying with us. We want you to stay with us.”

“No. I need to be on my own.” I hadn’t known why I had lied then and I still can’t articulate it now.

I haven’t been able to sleep for more than a few hours each night. My body freezes at the sound of someone coming home to a flat upstairs, to the sound of people murmuring through walls. I walk around the flat at night bare foot, feeling the cold hardwood floor beneath me and tracing my hand along the freshly painted walls. I think the flat is decorated how I would have done my own room; empty apart from the most basic furniture.

My heart is sticking to the sponge of my skin again. I feel the salt bubbling against my skin once more. I have to stop crying like this. I think of how embarrassing it must look if anyone is watching me.

I have to remind myself, again, to watch the sea, to listen to the seagulls, to focus on anything else. I imagine myself going out into the water, laying on my back, letting my body float along. If I don’t run, perhaps I could try cold water swimming.

I think of all the things I can do now and again feel overwhelmed. It feels overwhelming just to have thoughts to myself again. I tell myself this is a good thing, this is a fresh start.

I let the sun dry my face.


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