Cumulous clouds, nimbulous cotton-candy puffs of white and grey, misty blue on the horizon, jade to forest to spring green water. Junior Lifeguards from middle to high school age, sun-kissed, sun-blonded, not in “look-at-me” bathing suits but suits meant for business. No bare butt or barely-there tops. Not showing every inch that perhaps should have remained clothed but suit bottoms looking more like shorts than a bathing suit and tops that, while showing off brown shoulders and the promise of ripe breasts, are held in place my numerous straps, a spider web of detail promising taut hold and no slips and also promising less than attractive tan lines for pretty dresses, but they would show muscular shoulders and honey-tan skin. They don’t care. They’re here for work. Smiling, laughing, playing, but with a clear sense of life-or-death in mind. I tip my hat to these kids who someday will save someone from drowning, be it a rip tide or exhaustion, cramp or stupidity. Blonde hair bleached almost white, a dark bun on the crown of one’s head, miraculously staying in place despite pounding waves and constant dunkings. A lone surfer riding the waves in bright red trunks, sliding down the wave-train until he sinks down and is lost for a moment, only to pop back up to scan for his next ride.
Two girls in a ridiculous giant yellow duck, prompting smiles from the beach-goers, drift on top of the gentle ocean waves. This place is protected otherwise the girls, and their monstrous duck, would be battered beyond belief. A wonderful place to while away the hours.
I’m sitting under a tree watching the locals and tourists alike. How do I tell the difference? Other than the dichotomy between sunburned red and brown skin? The tourists are exhited, awed to be in Paradise, if only for a week or two. They bring everything they own to the beach: coolers, umbrellas, a variety of beach bags, totes, purses, backbacks, shovels and buckets, toys, tents, even. The locals are stoic. They don’t need the acoutraments. They need not to be excited. They live here day in and day out. They scorn beachy paraphernalia and only need a surfboard and, maybe, a towel. They live in the ocean. It welcomes them where the waves fight the tourists, pummeling them down and knocking them off land-lubbing feet into a rip tide with a siren’s song. The locals know better. They watch silently. They might say to a tourist, “Nah, Braddah,” and pointing, “rip.” They think no more needs to be said and they shake their heads in disgust when tourist after tourist jumps in only to be rescued by the local lifeguard or, even worse, by the Junior Lifeguards, smiling greatly with white teeth on tan faces, as they haul the ignorant in and deposit them on the sand in front of other smirking tourists. The locals are like the ocean. No, are the ocean, or at least blood-brothers. They both seem to say, “You have come to MY island. Beware of Paradise.”
A father of an 8 year-old is teaching him to skim the wet sand on a flat surface. He looks as if he has been a college football or wrestling star in former years: broad shoulders and neck, but his gut has turned his once tight body into a “Dad body” with too many beers and not enough action in later years. He peers down the beach, imagining all eyes on him. He stands up straighter and pulls his elastic gut in tighter. He son fall and he, father extraordinaire, stoops to pick up the wafer. He demonstrates for his son, flipping the wafer, running, jumping, and almost wiping out. He kicks the wafer to his son, looking around surrupticiously to see how many of the women saw his fail, eyes moving like a trapped rat’s inside mirror Ray-bans. The need for approval, even from strangers on a beach, rolls off of him in waves. As he makes his way to his towel, his son’s shoulders droop and holds the wafer in a limp hand.
A couple are having words. A pretty girl is made hideous by the dressing down of her man in public. “Maybe you don’t have to eat but I do. I’m going to get cranky if I don’t eat. I don’t care what you do; I’m going to get my shoes on and leave.” His hands out, palms up, in a silent plea. Her words striking him like a pit viper. Don’t take the bait, my good man. You can’t help but lose. You can’t win. Let her go on her way and hopefully you will have your calm and beautiful wife with a better hypoglycemic index very soon. I watch this realizing that I have put my own husband through this and I am humbled. Whether she, and I, are right or wrong, we shouldn’t be shrews, like Kate in Shakespeare’s play. Hunger can do awful things to a woman and Lord help the man who stands in her way of a good sandwich.
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