beach woman
I lean into the shadow of the wall with hat pulled low and my feet buried in sand.
I’m holding a book but my eyes move off the page.

The woman to my right is applying sunscreen.
Her hands move boldly, unconsciously, a bass player plucking strings, familiar fingers playing unfamiliar skin, and I can feel it, the hands and the skin, the intimacy and the otherness.

In the water stands a shapely blade of body–from the side, she’s all vertical lines but when the wave recedes, she turns 45 degrees and the curves appear, hips flare to points, shoulders blades unfold, and with each wave I marvel at that switchblade sleight-of-hand again.

To the left, spread out on her towel and eyes closed lies a mountainous woman, so big and solid and sure that if a tsunami reared its head, we could all hold on and she’d convey us to dry ground.

Over a naked toddler, a mother droops like a sunflower heavy with seed.
She stands there without moving, as if providing shade were her sole motivation.

Laughter breaks and I turn to see two women with their lounges pulled together, gray heads thrown back and laughing mouths turned up to the sun.
One swats the other’s bare thigh–¡smack! –and their laughter pops like bubbles.

Here comes an earthquake, a milkshake, a cornucopia of fruit; each step bounces the mangos against the melons.
With the swish of one hip, she could feed the world.

Another jogs by on legs so pale they might be carved soap and muscles strung all the way up her neck to disappear under a fanciful cap of orange curls.
Beside her runs a woman who could be a man but isn’t, isn’t, and it’s her plain femaleness that pulls me along.

The one in front of me has sat so long without moving I forgot she was alive but then, without turning, she sends one hand, stretching and groping, behind. The hand finds the sunglasses and puts them on and I yearn to see those eyes, that face, the cheat sheet, the cipher, the place where all the answers are distilled.

Little boys prod my attention but the girls are the ones who grip me: three on knobbed knees work silently, furiously, piling a city of sand between them.
I search their profiles and tiny ribs for evidence of the women inside.

I can’t resist that blade, that flesh, that fruit. What is it about women? What compels me to look? It’s much more complicated than the shape of a thigh, a penetrating gaze, or desire. What it is: I cast my gaze and it catches on a mysterious feature; I feel a wrench of heavy recognition and reel it in; I take a long look then find the correspondence, the place inside me where it belongs, and from then on, we are tethered to one another in a permanent, invisible connection.

About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. Love, love, LOVE this. You write such beautiful words about a sliver of time, and it becomes universal. xo

  2. Wonderful…so wonderful…

  3. women’s compelling connectedness through time – beautiful

  4. Great view of the parade.
    That 3rd paragraph, “hips flare to points, shoulders blades unfold, and with each wave I marvel at that switchblade sleight-of-hand again.” well done – great word choices
    “as if providing shade were her sole motivation.” You do so well at establishing the person’s personalities as well as their appearances.
    Enjoyed the post

  5. There were two emails in my inbox this morning to tell me of blog posts. Yours was one, the other was an interview with some famous writer. I clicked on yours first, because I knew it’d be better, and as always, I wasn’t disappointed.
    P.S I checked the other one out after yours, and made it a competition, just to be sure. You win again.

  6. You are a great observer. And you remember what you experienced! And that is hard to do. Carla

  7. This is stunning. I love enjoying the beach through your careful, wondering, and respectful eyes.

    • What is it about women!? That’s what I want to know! (And thank you!)

      • Even as a child I recognized it. I remember watching my teachers during class, the way her simple gestures and body language would look in a forbidden context. I’d juxtapose the motherly professionalism against the real wilderness of her imagined naked body pulsing with want, begging and moaning, legs flexed to the moon, toes curled, eyes closed, reaching some forbidden height of desire.
        You’re right. There’s just something about women.
        I love this piece. Nothing escapes your observation, and you share it so profoundly.

  8. If that question could be answered, I’m sure we’d no longer want to know… Exquisite 🙂

  9. Fanciful; the pull of flesh on our retinas, our corneal fix, or is it a complex? Oedipus
    Sometimes too, I wonder in this direction
    Sexually there isn’t a need met there, waiting for me as some whale upon a shore, dying and living solely to be saved
    I’m not resistant to that option; it simply isn’t my truth
    And yet there is such sexuality about our senses
    The eyes touching forbidden fruits without indulging them
    The fascination of femininity
    Found in the fullness of a breast, the inward sloping of a lower back bared
    The tongues and the cerebrums neither taste nor tell of their temptings
    When taken with wonder in this way
    You’ve reached the infinite mortality of our brains and immortalized it
    Well done.

  10. Oh my god. You continuously blow me away.
    Snapshots with words, but not just any snapshots. They are filled with good will, tenderness, respect, admiration, and sun flares. And they are heady treasures. Filed away in a box in my mind.

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