“If I were Martha, I would have let my lost glasses ruin the day.”
I had asked Grazina what the overriding theme of the day was. She had started with the words “Having fun, regardless of circumstances”–but the devil’s in the details. And the sand.
When we went to pick Grazina up at her apartment, she had noticed that we had bottomed out on a patch in the road where most cars don’t. After about twenty minutes spent changing that flat tire, we decided to take Grazina’s red Honda Civic to the shore.
Fast-forward the tape a bit. (Tape! Heh.) We’ve driven the length of route 36 along the northern-central coastline, before 36 changes from an east-west highway to a south-bound road. Having stocked our cooler with a light lunch of cheese and fruit, we were walking towards the car when Martha got a call; the training course she had wanted to attend (to improve her skills at work) would cost her nearly a thousand dollars in airfare to attend. To make this trip happen, Martha said she’d search airfares herself and get back to her company’s travel agent–before the agent left work for the day. Our day suddenly had a time limit.
Sandy Hook is a peninsula of land with many beach areas, and the first one we stopped at disallowed kite flying. That’s okay, we can get our feet wet in the ocean! After splashing for a while, Martha was caught by surprise by a big wave and went down. When she surfaced a few seconds later, she had lost her glasses. I reacted–not as quickly as I’d like to recall–by helping her up, then trying and failing to find her glasses.
“I ended up in a better place–sort of.”
Two hours later, we picked up Martha’s new glasses in East Brunswick. She had already ordered new lenses for her frames, and it was the work of two phone calls for Martha to order new frames as well. Since she had lost her overlarge drugstore sunglasses to the same west-bound wave that snatched her spectacles, we ordered a set of prescription sunglasses at a significant though confusing discount.
The next beach access we’re driving to is the “fishing beach”, north of the C area on Sandy Hook. We know damn well we’ll be driving back to real life in an hour or so, to pay hundreds of dollars to replace Martha’s glasses and book a flight for Martha to pay for her own training in Kansas City. But we have an hour now.
We set up about twenty yards from the ocean. Martha is sitting in our single beach chair; while we’ll soon give her a kite to man, her world is now a blurry, glittering place.
We have a triangular kite that is quite beautiful, and a parafoil kite that I know from experience will be happiest when it’s about two hundred yards up.
The fishing beach is aptly named. People are wading in the sand, trolling with whip poles and lines. Some have jammed large poles into the sand a few yards from the water, and are lounging in the sun. Our kites seemed–to me, anyway–to be an intrusion at first, but once we get the hang of keeping the kites in the air, I feel I belong on the serene, fly-infested Fishing Beach.
The edge of the water is a partial refuge from the flies biting at my sand-encrusted calves. I’ve discovered how to make the triangular kite dive and zip back up before it hits the ocean. Until we leave in half an hour, I’m happy as I keep to the semi-wet sand on the edge of the shoreline.
Neil Fein is a freelance editor. On the side, he’s the guitarist in the band Baroque & Hungry, rides a mean bicycle, and paints in oils when the mood strikes him. He has a beard and likes Portland, Oregon very much–although the wonder of his visit to the city is starting to wear off a little bit.
This column was edited by Grazina Strolia after several exhilarating rounds of Bananagrams. It’s also an experiment in using different tenses in the same work. Thanks, Grazina!