We parked on the side of the street and walked a few hundred feet through a parking lot. Our bodies stiff after a 6-hour drive to Las Vegas followed by a red eye flight across an ocean.
“We can’t check in until 3, and it’s only 10, so let’s just go to the beach?” Marianne suggested.
“Did I hear a question at the end of that sentence?” Melissa joked. “Why would you raise your voice at the end like it was a question?”
The three of us had the same beach and vacation rhythm, making being together on an island ideal. It was our second trip and we vowed it had to become a tradition. Our rules were simple. We could book this trip if:
1. We could find air fare and lodging for $800.00 or less.
2. We were fine wasting away on the beach for multiple days in a row. No crazy driving or all day excursions if it ate up a beach day.
3.We were willing to stop counting how much sugar and diet coke we consumed while off the main land.
It became an unintended sanctuary, our rite of spring and shedding our winter-tired skin. Comfortable hours spent staring off into the ocean without hearing or speaking a word, followed by hours of sharing deep unguarded secrets. Laughter and silence sat side by side. Even though the beach as a whole was not undiscovered land, the separate parts of sand, sun, and water awed us. Picking up handfuls of newly washed grains, we let the mixture drip through our fingers and splatter onto our legs as we marveled at the shiny particles nourished and worn down by water and sun. Somehow touching the earth, feeling the rays, and tasting the brine on our lips allowing a deep knowing reality and peace to settle among and between us - we knew saltwater truly did have healing properties.
After we found our beach and parked, we dug through our bags comprised of more swimsuits than clothes. The magic air and location tricked us into forgetting high-maintenance habits and anti-camping vows. Stripped of our worries, appointments, and inhibitions from the Motherland, we rolled the windows down enough to trap a towel and create a makeshift dressing room. Shirts came off, pants were thrown, and the acrobatic feat of pulling lycra on over sticky bodies ensued. We dumped sunscreen, books, and water bottles a la yours, mine, and ours into a beach bag still littered with sand pieces from last year. The chairs we bought at Kmart minutes earlier swung, clanking against our backs. The weight of the bags, and chairs distracted me from realizing I had bare legs and hardly anything covering my chubby pale winter legs.
As we crossed the street from the car to the alley leading to the beach, I saw a brown dumpster in a corner next to huge flowering bushes. It felt odd to have such a practical utility amidst natural beauty. Round and brown little bathing suit kids buzzed around the dumpster as they threw popsicle wrappers inside; only half the wrappers making it in.
“Don’t you wish it was still cute to be chubby and have rolls on your thighs at this age?” Marianne sighed.
Melissa and I played along, and pulled our jersey beach dresses up to make them even shorter and kept walking.
As the beat of our flip-flops searched for sand, a familiar general store with green wooden letters and an A-shaped awning appeared on our right. This store would soon provide our daily sustenance. Natural Cheetos and Diet Coke. As the three of us filed pass, our arms full and backs red from straps of chairs, our eyes met each other and we silently knew our traditional beach habits had commenced. Our brightly painted toes sprouted from the hot damp sand as we shuffled to find our spot.
Our lethargic movements looked like a modern dance. Together we stopped, creaked our bodies over and slipped off our flip-flops. The towels unfurled with a soft snap as our beach bags collapsed into the sand with a dull thud. The colors of green and tuquoise glass roared their siren call, soon to be answered, but first we turned to the sun with sand grit beneath our nails and stood at attention. Standing before the surf, sand grit beneath our nails, and before lying down for the next few hours, we stood at attention. Salt-bidden, worshipful release.