The sun is low now and it’s making the wet sand flash up in my face as I run. I can hear my own breath and my feet slap, slapping. Every twelve paces I’m doing the longest, the highest, jumps I can. Eleven, twelve and up. I stop when I reach the groyne and look out at the pier. It’s getting cold. This is the best time. This is always the best time – when other kids have gone.
Today was bad because of the t-shirt. I wanted the t-shirt more than any of the others because it was all the different blues – navy and royal and sky and I like that, that blue has all those different names – and the stripes are fat, thin, fat, thin, thin – with a little line of white too. And I still do like it. I wrap my arms around my body and rub the t-shirt against my ribs. I do still like you, t-shirt. But there were four times today.
‘Are you a boy or a girl?’
‘It’s not a boy.’
‘You’re not a boy, are you?’
‘But are you a girl? Why are you wearing that t-shirt? That’s a boy’s t-shirt.’
‘Are you a tomboy then?’
I crouch in one of the pools where water is bubbling through the sludgy sand. My toes start to sink in. Soon my feet will be gone and there’ll be just the blunt ends of my legs. If I stayed very still I might sink all the way in, like in proper quicksand in a Wilbur Smith book. There’s a razor-clam shell and I can dig with it – make channels that fill with water. There are tiny crabs, see-through like fingernail when you’ve been in the bath a long time. The hairs on my arms are white with salt and I suck it off. The bubbly water is feeling extra tickly on my bikini bottoms. I want to be here, on my own, forever. I don’t want anyone to ask me those things ever again.