The phone rings beside my ear. For a second, in my dream-like state, I thought it was the still the ringing of the concert from last night in my eardrum. I was sure my hearing from the year I’m going to be 79 was surely taken all in one night, and I was also sure it was worth it. I also decided I should wear ear plugs next time. I’m not as young as I used to be, and I keep catching my memories flitting off, no longer safely stored in the rows and rows of filing cabinets in my mind. Those are all filled now with how to file tax returns, Tuesday, December 13’s doctor’s appointment at 2 p.m. in unit 8B, the various deductibles from my sucky health insurance. I picked up the phone.
“Hello?” I was surprised by the raspy sleep-sound of my voice.
“Hey, I didn’t think you were going to answer. You’ve gotta get up,” Chris said.
“Why? What happened?” I put alarm into my voice in what I hope sounds like sympathy, but I stay in the exact same spot underneath my comforter. The air is cold. It’s probably something stupid, like it usually is when he calls.
“The coolest thing ever, Ru. The ocean. There’s a bunch of surfers out here, it’s like watching some epic game of cosmic golf…but it’s real.” Chris sounds genuinely excited.
“I have work tomorrow…” I start.
“You’ll regret it if you don’t come out. Seriously. This is a once in a lifetime thing,” he says, with that same uppity tone.
Hell, I’m still young.
“Fine, where are you?”
“The Shores, by lifeguard post number three. Text me when you’re close.” And he hangs up. That was rude; he never just hangs up on me.
I force myself willfully out of bed and pull on a hoodie. I’m not changing out of my pajamas and subjecting my naked bits to the cold, fuck that. Hopefully there’s no one cute there.
As I drive down the windy two-mile stretch to the beach, I crane my eyes to the ocean. Can’t see anything lit up over there but the occasional, methodical glow of a fog light. My car hits a reflective bump on the road, waking me up. Shit, better keep my eyes on the road. People die here all the time, and I can see their cars float off the cliff before everything shifts into slow motion, doors open, bodies, books, and clothes fluttering down to the water. The sickening ploosh as body meets water.
I pull into the parking lot, the only car. I text Chris, and after a few minutes I see the little light of his cell phone bouncing towards me in the air, an artificial firefly. It’s really dark out here. He opens my door and lets in a gust of briny, dead-seaweedy cold air.
“Fuck!” I scream, and pull my sleeves down over my knuckles, blowing into the nautilus curve of my hand.
“Come on!” He says, and he’s already jumping back over the fence that demarcates the beach from the lot. I rush to catch up, my body as stiff as a nutcracker’s. I pulse my hands open and closed to get some blood back into them as the cold sand crawls into my sandals and grinds itself in between my toe and the strap. My eyes have been glued to my feet and the sand so I can keep my face out of the wind, and trick my body into believing I’m still warm for as long as possible. I’m at the point where the dry sand becomes wet sand when I notice that the sound of the waves is suddenly loud, and lift my head. I see it, and then I see nothing else; the cacophony of the ocean, my body temperature, and the wet force of the wind become a backdrop to something out of a fantasy book…
To be continued