Beaches are dreamlands for people watching. I find it very hard to relax in a reclining metal chair that is slowly sinking into a sea of grainy rubble, especially with so many faces and features buzzing around me.
The breeze is never quiet here. The multitudes are thin and beautiful, collectively clutching their trash magazines and laying out under the sky in the hopes of being barbequed, but there are some characters that escape the cookie cutter throng. A baby is banging the underside of a pot with two Drumstick ice cream cones. A woman whose hair is either white blonde or white white is punching numbers into a decrepit cell phone the size of my head and nervously chewing on the end of her glasses. A gaggle of wavy haired boys about my age are playing paddleball terribly, their beer cans buried in the sand by the net. A little black girl dressed in head to toe lavender is inspecting her shiny shoes with alarmingly wet Steve Buscemi eyes. A middle-aged man is actually wearing white linen pants and trolling the beach with a peach in hand, a hollow look beneath his hat’s brim, right out of an Elliot poem (or Nantucket…).
The portly toddler wrapped in an American flag towel is staring out dreamily at the horizon in a fashion that is usually reserved for Olympic heroes. An old substitute-teacher type with gray skin is struggling to drive her umbrella into the ground, as an older man looks on with his wife resting beside him. The caveman child with a furrowed brow is dodging a blast of sunscreen from a spray bottle, while a young skeletal woman teeters by the water on spindly tent stake legs. There is a ginger reading a mass-market novel so furiously it is as if he is devouring the Stephen King on a paper plate with plastic cutlery.
It amazes me that in this moment, all of these unattached people are living their lives simultaneously, together, and completely separately. They come to the beach to relax and taste the air, the sounds of the gulls, and the comfortable non-company of these strangers. They want some kind of hurrah before work on Monday or school in the fall. Leaves falling to the earth in autumn like cards dropping out of a deck signify an end of a state of mind- the kind induced by too much Popsicle juice and sunscreen fumes. The kind caused by lobster claws and corncobs.
We pack up trunks of summer skin and easy living in our attics to prepare for the chill of fall but the ream of summer scenes of the sun pinching our cheeks can stay in frames on the wall until next year. Until then, we can continue to search for summer in our worn bathing suits and straw hats—plucking leftover crumbs of sand out like specks of the season—in anticipation of all meeting again.