Saturday, January 17, 2009


The beach chair beacons me to sit, and I heed its call. Bundled against the unseasonably chilly breeze, I turn my chair toward the sun and shift into park for the first time in months. The children dash headlong toward the surf, and for once I feel no guilt for not joining them. It is simply too cold—no further explanation needed, no further questions asked. I pull from my bag a book and my ever-present notepad, and begin to read.

From time to time shadows cross my paper, causing me to glance up to determine their source. I watch as the passersby pass, and the juxtapositions amuse me. Consider the retiree in her black Harley-style “Rock and Roll” t-shirt, tucked in to her brand new unbelted Levi’s which end at sparkling white Keds. Her impeccably teased short, brassy blonde hair nearly glows atop her oversized black, rhinestone-studded sunglasses. Beside her is a tan, balding man without a shirt sporting a large, gold cross around his neck. His stomach protrudes over his shorts and his feet are safely tucked into very manly aquasox.

Next comes a more athletic type. She is outfitted in a running tank and matching shorts, obviously more a function of perfecting her tan than keeping her body temperature regulated. Her highlighted hair looks unnaturally natural, given her age. Her tan face beams as she bounces along to the music playing through her coordinating ear buds, and she marches along in step to the beat. Her partner sports oversized shorts and a likewise oversized belly, tennis shoes with tube socks pulled halfway up to his knees, and a jacket tossed over his shoulder. He decidedly does NOT bounce.

I begin paying more attention to what is going on around me. Seagulls swarm an older couple harassing them over a couple of sandwiches. The couple sits in jeans and sweatshirts with their hoods pulled up, arms tucked in, and sandwiches held tight. Nearby, a trio of college girls assume “the position,” though with more layers than usual. They are one of many groups lined up in rows upon their towels, heads all turned toward the sun. A pasty looking family walks by with young kids in tow, followed by a leathery pair of retirees who look as if they’ve lived their whole life right here on this beach.

The parade continues. People in shorts and t-shirts and tennis shoes, walking for exercise, together or alone. People in jeans and jackets, walking as if to say, “I came here to walk on the beach and I’m going to walk on the beach if it kills me!” People clad only in bathing suits and deep tans, daring their bodies to goosepimple in the light of the sun. People are everywhere— looking up, looking down, looking at other people.

I wonder what I look like to those who happen to look my way. Parked here in my chair with my husband, my white skin glowing in the sun, causing people to cover their eyes against the glare. My knee length shorts and my gray hoodie serve to both hide the body about which I am still self-conscious and keep it warm against the nationwide cold spell that has chilled even the sunny Gulf. My curly hair blows wildly about my face as my eyes, used to the Midwestern mid-winter haze, squint against the sun despite the sunglasses.

The breeze lessens and the sun climbs higher and I pause from my furious reading and writing and people watching to shed a layer. My husband replaces his hand on my knee and we smile at one another, his soft green eyes all crinkly around the edges. How he is beginning to tan already is beyond me—a healthy glow that says “I’ve been to the beach” forming across his face. I decide to pretend not to notice. It is just better that way.

I glance up from time to time at the kids playing along the shore. The cooler temperatures spare us from having to be right on top of them as they play in the water, because it is too cool to even be in the water, and therefore allows me the luxury of indulging without guilt in my second favorite beach pastime—parking my fanny in a chair and reading/writing for hours. Tomorrow will be warmer. Tomorrow there will be long walks with downward glances and the filling of ziplock bags with Sanibel’s treasure. But today, for a long-needed and well-deserved moment, I will simply sit in the sun and do my own happy version of nothing.

For as long as I darn well please.


Cindy said...

How lovely. Your writing had me drawn in. I want to hear/see/feel more.

Julie Morrison said...

Man...while I was reading this, I was so there. I could feel the sun on my skin and the warm sand under my toes...Imagine my shock to look up and see the freakin snow show out my window! But I'm enjoying my own sweet solitude this morning! Great writing!

lorie said...

thanks, guys! i'll keep writing so you can be at the beach by proxy!