Sundries of folks lined up along the beach. They were playing “Red Rover” today – a game I wholeheartedly disdained. It was a game of fools and idiots, which basically means the same thing, but little would they know that. People would shout and cry and laugh, swing their arms high and low and back and forth – the whole process made me sick to the stomach. On the side, Teddy was grilling some franks and squirting the grill with lighter fluid every now and then to produce some ersatz flames to impress girls. He always enjoyed doing that, but only when around really dumb blondes. When it was just us guys he’d usually just blabber about downing beers or how much he wanted to go sailing every weekend.
She was sitting on the beach that day all by herself. Her lotion polished legs and plaid-patterned two-piece made me wriggle from a distance. That asshole of guy kept coming over and talking to her while she read her magazines and soaked up rays under the sun. God I love the way those glasses complemented her face. The way the sun glimmered off her thighs as her feet tucked into the crystalline sand. She’d smile every now and then watching the dingbats flounder about in the waves. I could only faintly make out her laugh but those few notes that hit my eardrums made me grin like a goon.
That day the entire littoral of sun worshipping lackeys danced about or splashed in the salty waves of the sea. A few had been smart enough to bring along a handful of longnecks to remain entertained and loosened up. Some barbeque was being prepared farther down the coast but I couldn’t make out whether it was worth the walk over or not. I had downed a couple of drumsticks before that had been grilled by one of our pals. The problem I had with all the “summer” food was that it always seemed to give me indigestion. Not in the horribly repugnant manner, but rather in the “Fuck, this can’t be good before splashing in the waves” kind of way.
Probably every 30 minutes or so I’d make my way back to the snack bar to grab another drink or chat with the girl who worked at the counter. She had freckles on her face and a smile like no one else. Now I accept that no one has the same outline of freckles on their face but it was her smile that really stood out. Some people look for pearly whites or teeth that are aligned in the most pristine formation more fastened together than a proper phalanx or whatever, but goddamn she had a flawless simper of a goddess! I mean I couldn’t stop staring at her as I fumbled for the change in my pocket!
By the time I returned to my spot she had left to go run along the jetty. The jutting rocks made me worry, but she seemed so careless around them – nothing could stop her from having the fun she deserved that day. As the waves undulated their way into the porous formation of stones along the jetty, she danced across it with such grace and such indescribable sultriness. I couldn’t tell if it was the way she moved, the composure she held or the confidence she radiated but it was probably the combination of each element that made me forget to pay the girl at the counter. Aimlessly feeling for the Styrofoam cup sitting on the counter, I knocked over the napkin holder onto her side that caused me to cut my attention off – if only for a few seconds.
“Shit! I’m so, so sorry” I told her. “I wasn’t paying attention because--”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” she told me. “Go enjoy yourself in the sun. Maybe I’ll see you later?”
“Yeah, later,” I said. “Naturally.”
Sipping my drink through the straw and watching her gambol back towards her spot kept me more than satisfied for the moment. I could’ve sat under that umbrella all day and would have been delighted beyond all means. It wasn’t until about an hour later that she had decided to walk over to the snack bar to buy whatever it was that she had in mind. I quickly pushed myself with two hands off my patch of beach and kicked a cloud up as I burst towards her direction. Even her strides made me melt inside as I did my best to cover up the fact I was following her to the snack bar. I brushed my hair with my right palm and slicked back the coif of hair I had going on. I wanted to look relaxed but not too prepared – this was one of those make it or break it moments, the kind of shit you wait for all your life.
“Hey, I saw you on the jetty just over--” I stammered out.
“Yeah I noticed that,” she said to me. “It’s kinda hard to hide it when you’re…”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Maybe I’m not too good at--”
“Standing in line?” she said.
Fuck. I had managed to walk backwards into the guy in front of me while attempting some sort of seductive conversation. Fuck I’m an idiot.
“Yeah,” I said dumbly nodding. “Yeah.”
By now the awkwardness had hit a new level as I attempted to brush off the event that just happened 5 seconds ago. Her eyes wandered off to the side while I struggled to find some sort of suave excuse or cutesy cover-up for the foolish blunder I had just committed.
“So, uh, you come to the beach often?” I leaked out.
She giggled in a soft yet sensual way. “Yeah I do, actually. When I can make it out here.”
Oh you don’t live out here?
“No, actually,” she said with such sultry ease. “I usually am pretty busy during the week.”
“You’re very direct aren’t you? Sort of a ‘know-what-you-want’ kind of guy?”
“Is that what I come off as? Am I really so…”
“Straight to the point? Yes – you are.”
These quick trades of thought made me think for a second. “Is this really going the way that it is right now? Am I getting my ass handed to me by the girl that I actually have a crush for?”
“Sorry, uh, I didn’t mean to keep you from your most enjoyable and necessary snack bar purchase today” I said. “You seem like the kind of girl that really is set on getting what—“
“You really think that?” she asked me. “Am I that easy to pigeonhole and package?
“No! No!” I said. “I wasn’t trying to say anything about your character, habits or even your mode of getting to—“
“You should really give me more of a chance,” she said. “Do you know what it’s like to be stared at from a distance as you run along the jetty in a two-piece? My God it’s exhilarating because you know people are watching but they just can’t touch you or do anything. It’s such a rush!”
The blood kicked its way into my head as I tried to comprehend what she had just said. Was I just another one of those snack bar douche bags? Maybe just another beach boy that had a semi-good tan and a reasonable head on my shoulders? I couldn’t really get to the gist of it because I remained such an outsider. She knew what she was doing and I had been made the fool of it all.
“See ya later,” she said to me as she grabbed her drink and left.
I looked back to the counter girl with the beautiful smile and combination of freckles.
“Hey I’m sorry for trying to—“
“Listen man, no worries. I work at a snack bar on the beach - I’m used to it. You should be too,” she said. “So do me a favor and go after that one – she seems really worth it.”
“You think so?” I asked in a pseudo-quizzical way.
“Yeah of course,” she said.
“You’re right. She is worth it,” I said. “Thanks for all the help – you’ve been great.”
“Never a problem.”
As I stumbled my way back through the excessively trodden sand, she kept looking back at me with the most confusing smile-smirk combination I had ever seen. She was beyond unique – she was even beyond beautiful. I wanted to know more about her, but before I knew it a crowd of figures, frames and forms came swooping in front of me. Some boom box was playing vociferous static as a herd migrated toward the beach - cutting me off from what really mattered.
My head bobbed up as I jumped a few times to see if she was still there. Every now and then I could make out what I assumed was a glimpse of her through the bodies that past by in front of me. By the time they had moved on she was luckily still there. Still standing there with drink in hand but now giving me this sort of puzzled look. I couldn’t tell what it was or what it meant, but I continued to walk in her direction. I stumbled upon a few totes here and there and then on someone’s elbow as it lay splayed out off their towel and into the undefined path for mobilization.
As I finally neared her she said something I couldn’t make out over the encompassing mix of sounds. But her expression was enough to win me over. As I embraced her in my arms, that day became complete beyond my wildest intentions. The sand no longer bothered me as it singed into my feet, my confusion from earlier no longer bothered me as it had so strongly done so, and my smile lit up as genuine as it had ever been before - then more. This was what made me happy and as radiant as the sun that shone above us. This was what made the summer so worth it and the day that led up to it so necessary. I knew then that life had its gifts and presents that come in time. All it takes to experience them is a bit of patience and a whole lot of understanding. But with those two, the accomplishments in life become that more tangible and less so a fantasy.
That day as I rolled in the sand and watched her read her magazine I felt nothing but pure, unadulterated bliss. It was what made life worth it and the beach so rousing. Yeah there were tons of girls all around on the strand but none had captured me like the girl who stood alone in all of her unique aspects. So what for freckles and a perfect smile – this girl had more than that and then more. Summer itself wasn’t enough to flatter this one – not at all. She deserved every ounce of the day and then some. The struggle for me was to find a way to say ‘Hello’ to the snack bar girl after that and make it seem sincere. I had been washed away and taken in by the waves that day.
After calling out all the fools who had been playing “Red Rover” before, I had actually broken through and attained more than just another side of things. Instead, I was now facing what had been longed for before yet never actually satisfied. Life, from then on, became even more worth it and meaningful. “So much for giving up on ideas that never materialize,” I said to myself. “You never know when life may go your way.”
As I settled myself back on to my terry cloth cushion, my head lowered down on to my scrunched up t-shirt. I placed my hands between the two and stretched out, first my arms and then my legs. The sun continued to shine down in its palliative manner even though it was 90º to everyone else. The warmth of it all was embraced instead of the problems that surrounded me at that moment. Maybe I’d pick up a nice semi-tan that day or even a few splotches of rosy sunburn, but neither really mattered to me. I was in a state of happiness that was beyond words, beyond any saying or phrase or textbook mantra. “These are the kind of days you can’t plan for,” I said, still looking up to the dazzling sky. “Thank you, really. For everything.”