Naked at the beach

One late summer afternoon, the girl was resting in her bedroom with her friend. She was around four at the time, the friend was two years older. They had just returned from a long day at the beach, by the Black Sea, in northern Dobrogea. She loved going to the beach, floating naked in clear salty seawater, then lying naked against the sand after a swim, feeling the warmth and the fine granular texture of the sand, which became sticky on her wet skin. She also loved the texture of her hair after being in the salty water, how her curls twisted, drying in the sun. Her friend enjoyed building sandcastles, but she saw this activity as a mere distraction from taking in the surroundings. She felt a comfortable familiarity towards the beach, the smells of algae and clams in the sun, of fried fish from a restaurant nearby, the sounds of waves, of pigeons flying above her and looking for food, the sounds of children playing in the background, ambulant vendors offering special mud that apparently was good for your skin and joints. The girls laid intimately next to each other in bed. As she glanced through the window of her room, the sun was beginning to set, painting the sky in warm shades of red and orange. They began flipping the pages of an illustrated children’s book her cousin had brought from a trip to France. It depicted dark-skinned children living in a tropical rainforest. In that book, children played naked in the forest, the same way children here go to the beach to play naked in the summer. They watched the images, eagerly flipping from one page to another. As the day swallowed itself, the children in the rainforest from the illustrated book felt closer, like an unspoken presence in the room. A soft moonlight engulfed the room. The girls fell asleep, the children from the rainforest watching over them.