Summer in a Different Time Zone
Sandra Ramos O'Briant
Hayward Fault Line Winner
New Mexico:
Her mother hadn’t returned home all day and now a midnight storm raged outside. She’d done this plenty since they’d returned to Santa Fe after her parents’ divorce. Lightning came hard and fast, its ragged edges touching the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Lydia sat on the metal swings between her mother's house in the back and her grandpa's in the front and dared it to strike her.
Graduate school in Phoenix had its pluses. The city had heat, baby, and nipple-stiffening air-conditioning, midnight tennis, convertibles and wide-open space in which to drive. The warmth massaged Lydia. It held her poised, wet, and always ready. She could slide off a lover's sweat-slicked skin and still feel clean.
In L.A., plants that were annuals became immortal in paradise. Lydia swam in the ocean even though without her contact lenses she couldn't see five feet in front of her. She squinted to find land and followed the smell of hot dogs.

Her apartment had a tiny enclosed patio. She left the door to it open for the cats. Wearing only a long T-shirt, she locked herself out one day. Lydia tried to climb over the fence to her patio from the yard next door. Her neighbor came outside and cupped his hands for her bare foot to give her a hoist up. She looked down at him and smiled. He was handsome and well-built, and she wasn't wearing underwear.
Lydia studied a guidebook on the steps outside a museum. An Irishman with a deeply lined face asked if she needed directions. They ended up having coffee together. Innocent enough, but then he offered to show her around London. Lydia felt a warning was only fair. "I'm no longer interested in sex," she said, "and even if I were, I'd never cheat on my husband." Her parents and all her siblings were adulterers. Lydia was the black sheep of the family.

"Why isn't your husband here with you?"

Lydia gave him the sarcastic version. "He read a book about Europe once." The Irishman raised an eyebrow, deepening the wrinkles above it. She shrugged. "He's afraid to fly."   

On a boat tour in Capri, they passed a cove where a young man in a dinghy was helping a naked woman out of the water. The passengers cheered and the young man smiled, patient and proud.
Lydia cursed her husband for not being with her. That could have been us out there on this beautiful summer day, she thought. I am the woman who swims naked in Capri, and his job is to be there waiting for me to finish.

First published: August, 2014
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