The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal
My eyes are drawn to the lifeguard station like the tides to the pull of the moon.
And there he is.
Perfect as a retouched photo, only there’s nothing about him that needs to be air-brushed or altered in any way. Nothing to erase, hide, or even improve on, no matter how gifted the artist. He’s flawless.
He rests back easily against the chair, one leg bent for support. Within arm’s reach is a surf board, a rescue buoy and a first-aid kit.
Ready to save a life.
What would it feel like to be pulled in by him? To be tethered to him by his rescue buoy, or next to him on the surf board? S-O-S, I want to shout. A smile rises in my throat. Good thing he can’t hear my head.
I watch him watch the beach through binoculars; a baseball cap shades his face. A black leather cuff is wrapped around his wrist. He’s ripped, yet as lean as a long distance runner. I want to draw him, I want to get him down on paper to study, to know. I glance around, surprised that any eyes are closed. Are they all blind?
He lowers the binoculars for a few seconds to wipe his forehead with the back of his hand and I study him face forward, struck again with how fiercely beautiful he is. The straight, narrow nose, the finely angled bone structure. An artist’s model of perfect proportions. He looks wary, self-absorbed. I try to imagine how his face would change if he laughed, or at least smiled. I don’t imagine that comes easy to him.
Do you see me studying you?
As if in answer, he lifts the binoculars and peers through them in my direction. There’s no one else in his line of sight.
I don’t care anymore about being embarrassed.
I don’t care what happened before.
I stare and keep staring, not drawing as much as a breath as the world stops and time seems suspended and everyone and everything recedes into absolute nothingness.
Except us, taking each other in.
Neither of us moves.
Perspiration beads on my face and upper lip in the fiery heat. A droplet breaks free and trickles down the side of my face stinging the corner of my eye. I blink, ignoring it.
I won’t look away first. My heart beats so hard that it hurts.
He doesn’t move.
I lift my chin and wait.
So does he.
I hold my ground. A silent challenge.
I’m going to win.
He turns sharply, sweeping his glance over the rest of the broad swath of beach.
And the game is over.
I release a breath I wasn’t aware I was holding and turn away, sinking onto the soft blanket facing the water, the sun branding my back.
I lecture myself as I decompress.
Push emotion aside, Sirena. Go for cold logic and clear reason. He’s a reclusive cat with a monstrous ego. Anyone can see it in the way he carries himself, in the way his eyes x-rayed my head, my heart. Poseiden, Greek god of the sea, shaker of the earth, drawing women with his power and allure.
Welcome to my grade B movie.
It’s infantile to play games, I decide right then. I want nothing more to do with him. Why would I sign on for a summer of hero worship and disappointment?
You’d have to be crazy.
--From The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal, Albert Whitman & Company
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