telephone series one: “At The Cliffs,” By Christina Wood Martinez


relevant scene starts at 2:59 and ends at 5:36



At the Cliffs

by Christina Wood Martinez

In the morning, they decided to go for coffee at the cliffs instead of eating in as they had planned. They felt uncomfortable sitting at the outdoor café table, though neither were sure why. The man assumed the woman had something to tell him – that he and she had come out to coffee on this morning so that she would tell him about an important decision she had made or feeling she had come to realize. The woman thought the man had a question to ask her. Repeatedly, he opened his mouth as if to speak, but instead took a drink of his coffee. The woman sighed and rubbed her lips together. Both felt as if there was a word which they could not remember.

From the cliff, a half dozen people were running and, in turns, with a tug from the wind, lifting great canvas sails behind them. One by one, they jumped from the cliff and took flight like kites.

The couple watched the gliders as they circled slowly above the ocean and then above the coffee shop on the cliff. Both were silent and thought that they were enjoying the fine weather. They squinted as they looked up at the gliders.

After minutes of silence, he asked, “How is your mother?” and she told him about a strained phone conversation she had had the day before. They spoke in low tones about how difficult it was to understand other peoples’ motives and decisions. They remembered a film they had seen years before that captured the challenges of one’s relationships with one’s family particularly well. They spoke of taking a trip out of the city – that it had been some time since they had traveled.

Above the coffee shop, they saw that two gliders were looping in paths that, as if on a track, would intersect. They were going to crash. The woman opened her mouth to gasp. The man’s hand moved upward as if to grasp the gliders, to hold them in place, to stop the crash. The gliders passed through each other with grace. The man and woman realized one glider was flying at least fifty feet above the other. From below, they agreed, the perspective was impossible to distinguish.

They returned in silence to their drinks. The sun was high now. They felt hot and anxious from their coffee and decided to return home.

As they opened the door, they discussed what to eat for lunch, but were not hungry yet. He brushed his teeth. She did not.  They sat down on the couch and each thought about putting on a film or music. They began to kiss and kissed for a long while, then, almost as if they had forgotten, as one forgets what one has gone to the bedroom to fetch while nearly at the end of the hallway, they stopped, and turned to do other things around the house.


Christina Wood Martinez studied Literature and Writing at UC San Diego and is a recipient of the Sherley Williams Award in Fiction. She lives and writes in San Diego, where she works in public education.




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