The house is quiet as I write this. My travel mates are somewhere–maybe walking on the beach, maybe still asleep, why, they might have packed up and left me here for all I know. It’s been that kind of week, and wonderful.
We wander around, each in her own little world, and we pass quite companionable hours in the same room without speaking to each other. This one sits on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. That one walks through the door shedding sand while checking her Fitbit for accumulated steps. Me, I always seem to be just waking up. From a nap. From a nine hour sleep. From the exhaustion that comes from finishing a book. I’ve read three, by the way, here at the midpoint of the vacation. If I choose wisely I might be able to clock another three before we pull out of the parking lot in the early morning dark as we make our way home.
Here is a synopsis of our conversations in their entirety. “Did you sleep well?” “Should I make more coffee?” “Hand me the sunscreen.” “Where will we eat tonight?” That last one we broach before nine o’clock each morning and serious and complicated discussions ensue throughout the morning and afternoon. We always eat at the first place mentioned, but still, it seems to reassure us that we are intelligent and capable women who deal with complex issues with thoroughness and depth. It’s as close to work as we get. There is something liberating about being of a certain age and hanging at the beach. In my youth I spent hours, days thinking about and assembling “outfits.” The perfect swimsuit, the cutest shorts, the little tops with spaghetti straps to keep the tan going and to ensure trips to the dermatologist later in life. No one could be more ill-prepared for a trip to the beach than I. My sister provided my beach towels, including a really nice one belonging to Meghan. We don’t know who Meghan is or how my sister’s family came into possession of her towel, but it is very thick and colorful with her name embroidered on it. It has been a favorite all week, and we have fought over it.
My swimsuit, well, lets just say it is an embarrassment and leave it at that. And I only have the one, not multiples as I packed in my youth. Some days I don’t even wear it to the beach, opting instead for baggy shorts and a tee-shirt. As I teen I could imagine nothing worse, more sordid and repulsive than wearing clothes to the beach. It seemed a sacreledge not to expose every inch of skin that was humanly decent to the punishing sun, all in anticipation of lying in bed of an evening, sick with fever and pulsing as the soft sheets pricked my burning skin like needles.
When Nick, the cute boy who rents the chairs, came around to set our umbrella, we made sure he positioned it so that half our bodies would be in shade at any given time of day. He was sweet and accommodating, reassuring us he would be close by to make any changes we requested as the day went on. He all but kissed our cheeks as he might his aging aunties.
I don’t even have a pair of sunglasses. I am wearing my friend, Jackie’s, because she has two pairs. When the sun gets too bright I throw my sarong over my head, or across my legs, and I am pretty sure instead of a those crisp tan lines I worked on as a kid, I will come home with a mosaic of blotches, and I won’t even try to hide them.
There is an art to doing nothing, and while I can do nothing with a vengeance at home, it is usually in the service of the avoidance of doing something. This beach vacation is different. When I counted up the years that have passed since I spent a week at the beach–or anywhere—with nothing at all to do, it was shocking, the lapse of time. I don’t know when I might be back to the beach, but I can tell you this. I won’t wait so long next time. I will be on some beach, with Meghan’s towel, books and tee-shirts and no alarm clock anywhere.