It is the last day of summer and a young woman, long, lean and tan walks languidly onto a beach, she wears a bikini, a blue bottom piece with a tan crotchet top. It is an ordinary piece but on her, it sings. She walks and as she does men watch, women do too. She is beguiling.
She finds a space in the sand and sinks into its softness. Cross legged she sits. With her face to the sun and a keen posture, she closes her eyes and meditates. She is perfection.
Another woman trudges onto the beach. Her skin is pale, spattered with freckles and an uneven tan. She belongs in another hemisphere. She is overweight, her thighs are dimpled and they wobble when she walks, at least she thinks they do, her hands are too full to lean over and check. She wears a one piece black and white poker dot swimsuit. She bought it off the internet. Anything to avoid the harsh lights of a change room.
She does not sit to meditate, in fact she laughs at the very idea. Instead, she drops her heavy load, walks past the woman on the sand and heads earnestly to the water. Her time is limited. Five minutes unencumbered is the goal.
She dives under the waves, once, twice. The cold, cool waves are invigorating, freeing.
She turns and looks back at the beach, the meditating woman sits on one side, her husband and children on the other. He watches the woman appreciatively and so he should. But a torrent of doubt floods her mind, wishing, berating, measuring, planning, failing. She is momentarily crest fallen.
But comparison is the thief of joy she tells herself. That reality is not her own, it never will be.
Her body she knows tells a different story. Her forehead is marked with creases from years of study and time spent scrapping with the black dog. Her eyes are dark from sleepless, baby filled nights. Her stomach is covered in stretch marks bequeathed to her by her children. Her breasts have lost their fervor, indeed they are red and calloused and punctured with holes from a baby too vigorous at the breast. Her hips are wide because she has a passion for food. Her thighs are too large because she lacks the will to beat them into submission.
She hears her baby and emerges from the water. Her body may not be beautiful, but it works. Her body may not attract the attention of men, but it is a source of comfort to her babies. Her mind may not be still, but it is constant and compelling. That she can turn her thoughts in this manner suggests to her she is wise and worth more than the pain of cruel and unnecessary thoughts.
Her baby is wrapped in a towel, he snuggles to her sandy breast. He drinks. He sleeps. The pale, imperfect body is his for a time. A rudimentary, soft patch of peace.
She looks up as the woman rises from her meditation and smiles.
Two women, different strengths, neither surpassing the other.