The Coldness of Sand

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt

71 comments

American Drama Romance

3.1688739 x 10^-10 Millenia

In ten seconds you will break my heart. 

In a thousand years, I will never recover from the words that will come out of your mouth, from this serious conversation you want so desperately to have, from your dead shark eyes that fail to hold my gaze. I will get up from this moderately priced seafood restaurant’s table, fully understanding that our relationship is, indeed, over. Like preparing a fish for a feast, your words will cleanly gut me. And at this point, I seriously doubt my legs will support me. As if already stung from a sea urchin, a numbness grows from the depths of my pitted stomach.

I know what’s coming. 

How much time do we even have left?

3.1688739 x 10^-9 Centuries

In a hundred years, I will not understand why you pushed your food around your plate on this night of nights. Like a sulky little boy. You'd think you were on the chopping block, a future you heartily envisioned, crumbling like walls of a badly constructed sand castle. Sand, the result of what a lifetime of weathering and erosion can do. Even to rocks. Does nothing last forever?

You normally love salmon, yet you are choking on those words you promised yourself you’d finally utter to me. 

You can still drink wine, though. I’ve never seen you drink as much at dinner before. Courage, lad. 

You were always one to prepare yourself, though. Did you compose your little breakup speech on your laptop? Did you research the best ways to set boundaries and consciously uncouple with the former love of your life whom you’ve made all sorts of promises to? Did you practice your pregnant pauses in the mirror, setting your mouth in a thin empathetic line? 

Your prophylactic compassion sickens me, especially when the cleft in your chin is still so hopelessly attractive.

What I wouldn't give to trace its crease in your handsome face one last time.

3.1688739 x 10^-8 Decades

In ten years, I will finally stop crying over you. 

For now? I roll my eyes in self-disgust to check my tears. You don’t deserve them. 

Over the past ten years I’ve wept an ocean over you and your fickleness towards me. I smile an award-winning smile, carefree and charming. I am overly polite to the waiter, the staff at the restaurant, the busboy in this public place where you’ve chosen to crush me. To invalidate what we are. What we are until you say those unforgivable words.

My napkin is on my lap. I sit up straight—no elbows on the table!—and I use the correct fork to eat my salad.

How can anything bad happen to this good girl? 

3.1688739 x 10^-7 Years

It feels we’ve been dining for years at this table. The waiter is attentive but slow, methodical, embarrassed to interrupt our dark mood. He feels as uncomfortable at our table as we do. The food is delicious, but the kitchen is taking its sweet time getting out the entrees. There is nothing to do but look at each other, at the other patrons, out the window. 

Our silences are long. Seemingly long enough for the Earth to orbit the sun. 

We used to talk over each other, recounting our day, cracking jokes to make each other laugh, telling half-forgotten childhood stories that reveal so much.

There’s nothing to say now. 

I’ve done an excellent job at avoiding your piercing gaze. You are looking at me like the dead raccoon we passed on the road this evening.

You don’t get to pity me. 

3.8026486 x 10^-6 Months

After seemingly weeks of awkwardness, you finally make small talk about nothing. Work. The copier that constantly jams. The secretary who takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t feel the need to make a fresh pot.

Your narratives do not have a throughline. They meander until they die on your lips. 

It’s fine. I’m not even listening. 

I’m waiting.

1.6534392 x 10^-5 Weeks

Endless days at our table. I’m tired of waiting for you to summon up the courage to murder what we have. Flames of unchecked anger and self-preservation begin to smolder. I’m not taking your bait. You will get no help from me. 

Your clumsy questions attempt to rip open the other side of this new bizarre world where you and I are no longer an us. Are you happy? You ask this question twice. Aren’t you exhausted trying to make this work? 

0.00011574074 Days

The earth rotates on its axis while we pretend to eat.

Of course we want to see the dessert menu, but we will not order anything.

Aside from your few leading questions, you remain quiet.

I hate the shrill tone to my voice, trying to entertain you with stories you no longer want to hear, telling you about people you no longer want to know, making plans just as you are about to end us. 

I suddenly realize I need to remember to breathe.

0.0027777778 Hours

The clock speeds up. We are soon to be dissevered.

What clichéd breakup line will you use on me? Dutiful woman that I am, one who has devoted so much of her life to your general happiness and well being.

There aren’t many lines to choose from. All are predictable. All hide the key fact that you simply do not want me in your life anymore.

What will you say? For God's sake, just pick one:

We are just on two different paths right now.

I really need to work on myself.

This isn’t going the way I thought it would. 

0.16666667 Minutes

We’re here now. I can feel the crescendo of the moment, your eyes flashing, daring yourself to be bold. Say the words. At this point, I plead: Just end it. Just say the words. I’m looking at you like an injured woodland creature, begging you to put me down.

At this moment I feel like a child at the beach, looking at a sand castle I’d spent all day building, carefully picking out shells for windows, artfully digging the moat for ocean waves to gently fill. But it’s time to go away. What to do with this lovely structure? Give it to the sea to dissolve or jump in the middle of it, savoring its destruction? 

I look you square in the eye, steeling myself for this awesome, glorious blow, a level of heartbreak and pain that will impact almost every decision I make for the rest of my life. 

Rock being crushed to sand, I uncross my arms and rest my hands on the table, palms facing up. 

I’m ready now. 

10,000,000 Microseconds

You know I love you, but . . .





December 31, 2020 04:32

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71 comments

Zilla Babbitt
15:13 Dec 31, 2020

I've never read a story of yours that was so wistful and ethereal! I wasn't expecting this one, though maybe the prompt is asking for wistfulness. Now I feel like I missed out on a wistful romance story. I like how you mixed in math. As an English teacher it must have been excruciating for you 😉. My go to critique when I have no critique is to add more dialogue. This feels like spinning around a clock, one of the clocks in a Dali painting. No dialogue necessary.

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:14 Dec 31, 2020

Deidra, you're the perfect Reedsy writer because you always put your own unique spin on the prompts and the result is always a pleasure to read. You have here a clever countdown but rather than just going from ten to one, you bring in the idea of relative time in a bit of an Einstein way, going from almost infinite to seemingly insignificant and showing the differing perspective of each relative to the observer - the narrator. At the same time, you make it poignant and meaningful, which is to say to make use of your creativity to enhance t...

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Deidra Lovegren
10:01 Dec 31, 2020

The world famous J Blaauw! How lovely to see you in the comment section again. ❤️ The Reedsy word processing program doesn’t like superscript, so the impact of my equations is a bit off having to use ^ but oh well. All calculations equal ten seconds. How perfect you bring up Einstein—I wish I had been that smart to figure out I was stealing from him. I was indeed thinking of how time flies or drags based on the company we keep. Painfully awkward and slow, or enjoyably lightning quick. There is a junior high math class I swear I’m still in....

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Bianka Nova
21:49 Jan 01, 2021

Nice to see you back, Blaauw, even if it's just in the comments section :) Please, write something soon. I miss you 😌 Happy New Year! 🥳

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Laura Clark
09:18 Jan 01, 2021

Kat was right — this was great! I love the different ways to tell the seconds and how clever a technique that is. The title is great, as well. The end is excellent, too. It leaves the next bit to the reader’s imagination but gives just enough information to let us know that it’s going to be as devestating as the protag expects. There’s such a lot of realism in this that really cements it in reality and it’s vague enough that lots of people will be able to identify with this couple. A very intelligent and engaging piece of writing. Not ...

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Deidra Lovegren
12:13 Jan 01, 2021

Receiving accolades from Laura Clark is the best way to start off the New Year 🎉🎊🥳 This piece is a mess, but so is the MC. She is ricocheting through stages of grief and hysteria—waiting (wanting?) a brutal amputation of the necrotic part of her heart. She’ll be all right.

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Kaylee Tinsley
19:21 Jan 07, 2021

Wow, Deidra, you've done it again! I am absolutely IN LOVE with your stories. The way you broke this down was beautifully poignant and you really captured the enormity of the moment when your significant other is ready to end things. LOVED this- but is that really a surprise? Lol.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:39 Jan 07, 2021

You know I'm an attention whore. I'll take all your accolades at any time. Thanks for dropping by again. Frequent flyer points will be awarded to your account :)

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Kaylee Tinsley
16:15 Jan 08, 2021

Lol! It is my pleasure to give honor where honor is due. :)

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Kaylee Tinsley
16:15 Jan 08, 2021

Lol! It is my pleasure to give honor where honor is due. :)

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Kaylee Tinsley
16:15 Jan 08, 2021

Lol! It is my pleasure to give honor where honor is due. :)

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Ray Dyer
04:29 Jan 07, 2021

This is not going to surprise you. I absolutely love everything about this story - the way it is sectioned, the terms from "dead shark eyes" to "prophylactic compassion," and the description of the server at their table. This is a scene that is so easy to relate to, the thoughts going through the narrator's mind are so well-drawn. Heartbreaking in such a powerful way. I promise, if you write something bad, I'll say it, but I refuse to make up something just to pretend that there was something to "catch." Great story, Deidra!

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Deidra Lovegren
12:16 Jan 07, 2021

Ray, we both know this story is trash, wildly out of control. It really needed a re-write, but the protagonist is unhinged, so WTF. I do appreciate you finding the diamond in the rough, as this is ROUGH. But, always fun to write a train wreck and math equations that all equal 10 seconds. Happy 2021, which seems very 2020 of late. :)

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Ray Dyer
13:37 Jan 07, 2021

We get less than a week to create an idea, write it, edit when possible, and post...and nobody is making a living off someone else getting $50 each week, so this all happens with real life tearing itself apart around us. I stand by my statement. This story rocks.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:48 Jan 07, 2021

Hey, I'm a school teacher. Living on $50 a week is just what I do. :) And who doesn't like living in a dystopian novel? Orwellian and Huxleyan at the same time. Brave New 1984.

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Ray Dyer
18:24 Jan 07, 2021

I'm not laughing. The sound of laughter is not coming from my corner of the internet.

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Wow......i have no words i've never read a story of yours but im glad that i am now. the numbers made me feel like i was in math class and i got a little anxious but this was beautiful. this wasnt like those cliché breakup stories and i loved that. i love your take on the prompt instead of counting down you used math (thats what it looked like i know im wrong) i truly dont have any words to describe this story now if you'll excuse me i'll be reading your other stories! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
11:56 Jan 06, 2021

Thanks for your kind remarks :) This was probably my least favorite story; it really needed another re-write. If you are in the mood for another crash-and-burn breakup, I think "A Breakup In Five Acts" was shortlisted... Always fun to see things burn (figuratively. Literally is pretty horrifying...) All the best :)

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you're welcome i'd love to read another one of your stories :)

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Maya W.
16:35 Dec 31, 2020

Deidra! It's been a while! Okay, so, I really loved this. I did a similar sort of story for this prompt which was also a countdown of seconds as flashback throughout time in a relationship, but you did it much better, not only because your writing style is amazing, but also because you worked in the mathematical ways for it to actually take place throughout ten seconds. Mine wasn't like that, I just counted down amounts of seconds. The math element really added a lot to this story, and while I feel slightly less creative now, I still really,...

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Deidra Lovegren
17:25 Dec 31, 2020

That's quite a compliment, Maya :) Breakups are always fascinating to watch from the safety of outside; however, when it happens to you, nothing sucks harder...

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Maya W.
19:02 Dec 31, 2020

I've never experienced a breakup, just lots and lots of failed friendships. Similar enough, right? Would you mind checking out some of my more recent stories if you have the time? If not, please don't worry about it!

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Deidra Lovegren
20:54 Dec 31, 2020

Glad to :)

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Phil Manders
08:44 Jan 17, 2021

I’m not sure how I missed this one. Great job.👏🏽

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Deidra Lovegren
10:55 Jan 17, 2021

Yay Phil ❤️

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T.C Morgan
21:11 Jan 09, 2021

Great job! I love how you formatted it, its fantastic. A super creative spin on the prompt.

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Deidra Lovegren
21:15 Jan 09, 2021

Thanks, TC :) All the formulas = 10 seconds. Enough time to emotionally destroy someone, apparently.

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Katina Foster
03:46 Jan 07, 2021

Nicely done! The math nerd in me especially enjoyed the ways you displayed time. It's so true how time stretches and contracts in different situations. This example was the perfect one to show how seconds can feel like torturous hours. Fave line: "Your prophylactic compassion sickens me, especially when the cleft in your chin is still so hopelessly attractive."

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Deidra Lovegren
12:14 Jan 07, 2021

Prophylactic as an adjective is always a winner. Hopefully it doesn't break the flow. (Haha?)

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Katina Foster
19:16 Jan 07, 2021

Oh Deidra. You never disappoint. 😂

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Deidra Lovegren
19:39 Jan 07, 2021

"Point" -- haha

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Such a nice and unique take on the prompt Deidra. The equation countdown was very smart of you to do. Loved it. =)

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Kathleen Foxx
20:01 Jan 06, 2021

Wow, that was a really interesting take on the ten seconds prompt! I chose the top ten countdown because I couldn’t figure out how to write an entire story based on only ten seconds. But this was great!

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Deidra Lovegren
20:11 Jan 06, 2021

Thanks, Kathleen. Although some of those prompts are CRAZY, we all do a pretty decent job :) Thanks for coming to my train wreck of ruined love.

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Andrew Krey
02:38 Jan 03, 2021

I loved the style of your writing for this prompt, it matches perfectly with the focus on time in the prompt, and how the experience is altering the perception of time. I also enjoyed the contradictions to reflect her conflicted state of mind; thinking him cowardly, not wanting pity, wanting to be out of her misery but listing how much she's invested in the relationship and still finding him attractive. It's an excellent representation of a very relatable moment. Well done, and happy writing!

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Deidra Lovegren
11:48 Jan 03, 2021

Thanks for the critique, Andrew! As Pat Benatar sang, love is a battlefield 🎶

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Andrew Krey
22:01 Jan 03, 2021

Ha exactly, and now after that dinner she's a more seasoned combatant

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Vanessa Waltz
03:10 Jan 02, 2021

Wow, this is so, so good! Not only is your writing excellent, I really couldn't imagine what anyone would come up with for the 10 second prompt, and this is definitely more creative and unexpected that what I'd imagined. You captured the feeling of tension so well. About halfway through, I was tempted to skip to the end, because I wondered if there was going to be a surprise twist: maybe he was nervous because he was going to propose? I'm glad that didn't happen - I thought the ending was perfect.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:06 Jan 02, 2021

Thanks, Vanessa! Nothing more entertaining that watching people break up. Horrible when it happens to you personally, but fascinating otherwise. High drama!

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Bianka Nova
21:46 Jan 01, 2021

Another strong contender for a shortlist at least! A setting as old as time, but the telling was exquisitely original. Loved all the fish/sea references at the beginning. :) The idea behind the second markers was also great. I just wonder whether they were maybe a bit too much. The text itself was pretty heavy, a simple countdown would've contrasted better. Just my (unusual) opinion, of course. Happy New Year! 🥂 to a great start! 😊

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Deidra Lovegren
22:29 Jan 01, 2021

This was a hack job and totally needed a re-write. I should have kept the ocean/sea motifs throughout but got lazy. Not thrilled with this, but wanted to play with the concept of time. 10 seconds can be very short or very long...

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Deidra Lovegren
22:30 Jan 01, 2021

But I totally appreciate your feedback :) :) :) Happy 2021 to the Novas

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