He stayed in the car while she went to the hotel. That’s the way they always did it. He staying, she searching.
This time it was easy. The door was locked, but there was a sign saying “chambres à louer” – rooms to rent. Just some minutes later, the receptionist arrived, dropped off by a black van. She handed her the room list. Each room had a different price, apparently calculated by a formula that included the level, size and view.
“Un chambre with a view?” she asked.
“Oui,” the receptionist answered, and opened the drawer with the keys.
Walking up the stairs, she saw a gecko on the ceiling.
Later, after they had been at the beach, it was still there. She pointed at it.
“Gecko,” she said.
“It’s fake,” he answered.
He was probably right, she had to admit it. The gecko hadn’t moved one inch. She tried to remember the French word for gecko, but only got as far as le chien, the dog, and le chat, the cat.
“Je suis un gecko,” she whispered while they let the water rinse the salt and sand from their skin and hair. I am a gecko. Only that she wasn’t. There was no way she could rest idle for hours while hanging upside down on the ceiling. There wasn’t even a way she could rest idle in a room for longer than a sunset, or a book, or a thought.
“Let’s go somewhere for dinner,” she said.
“We could walk along the beach,” he suggested.
But there were still too many people out there, walking over the remains of sand castles, walking along the footsteps of the day. Thus it was in the night, on the way back from a restaurant called Harlequin, that they were alone at the beach.
"The moon," she said and pointed at the reflection on the water that moved in waves. For a while they walked with it, with this reflection. She tried to figure out how the light did it, how it was able to stay by their side.
"It's what light does," he said and painted circles for her in the sand. First the moon. Then the earth. Then the sun, to explain the reflection. The reflection didn’t care about the sketch, though. It simply waited for him to move on, along the beach, along the thin line of water meeting earth under the pressure of air breathed in and out by hundreds of people.
The next morning, while the sun was still a blurry spot in a bowl of fog, she went to the water, to gather the elements she wanted to save from that day:
The sand moon.
The riddle of the traveling pool of light.
And the gecko, who had changed sides while they dined, unfake after all.
Notes + links:
- the story was first published in juked magazine
- the second and third photo are actually from the very beach of the Harlequin story, but from a later visit there (the place is: Narbonne, France).