Before I realized I’d said it I inadvertently suggested to Danusia “Why don’t we go to the beach?” Last Friday. We’d been talking about Labor Day weekend and maybe doing something special, and I know she’s very fond of the beach. I am not, which is why I was surprised I’d said it.
This would be the second time I’ve been to the beach this summer, we’d been in the spring once or twice to fly kites, but that didn’t involve wearing a swimsuit or going in the water.
The first time for me this summer was a few short weeks ago, when she wanted to take a friend to the beach one last time before her friend moved back to Poland. I donned swim trunks, and besides putting my feet in the water I didn’t even bother to take off my shirt. I spent the rest of the time safely ensconced beneath the nifty beach umbrella Danusia had ordered on Amazon.
A definite improvement over the cheap umbrella we’d gotten at a CVS in the Rockaways last summer. I don’t remember what happened to that one, I just remember having to chase it down a few times after the wind ripped it out of the sand and sent it flying across the beach like a spear.
This one has its own screw in post and is bigger and made of heavier cloth than the last one. It will not fly away and my fears of impaling a stranger with our flying umbrella have subsided.
I still have other fears, like the fear of displaying my more than middle aged body in public, gone are the days of cavorting naked at the nude section of Jacob Riis beach. I fear getting sunburned, eaten alive by biting flies or mosquitoes, sand in ridiculous places and drowning.
These fears are shaped and reinforced by past experience, the worst being almost drowning in Far Rockaway when I was 11 or 12. Then there was the time I caught some kind of skin fungus in Coney Island the summer I turned 14 through an open cut. I had lesions on my skin for a year after that.
My father loved the water having grown up in Tampico, Mexico- a costal beach town if there ever was one. So trips to the beach were a requirement of growing up in my family. But after I moved out of the house and started my own adult life the only way I went to the beach was because a woman in my life wanted to go to the beach.
Of course the woman in my life now is Danusia, and she loves the beach every bit as much as my dad did. But she, unlike my dad, does not insist or require that I accompany her. She usually goes with friends or her niece, Kasia.
“Let me call Kasia to see if she and Ritchie want to come along,” Danusia said after I’d sealed my fate. Kasia and Ritchie indeed want to come along.
Saturday morning we got up early and I made sandwiches and Danusia made enough three-bean salad to feed an army and we dragged all our stuff down to the garage and loaded up the car. We drove to Brooklyn to pick up Kasia and Ritchie.
It was a great day for the beach, we decided on Saturday because we both had stuff scheduled for Sunday and rain was forecast for Monday. It was partly cloudy; high wispy clouds that held no rain but diffused the hot sun nicely, the hot sun bearing down relentlessly is one of the things I hate about the beach- and a nice cooling breeze was in the air. A high of 85° was predicted and the weatherman did not disappoint.
I had already decided that I was going in the water; I decided that right after my inadvertent blurting of let’s go to the beach. A voice inside said, “be brave, go in the water, and don’t be a stick in the mud.”
As soon as I erected the nifty new umbrella and we set up the pop-out “tent” I bought from “Today’s picks” on the Today show- it’s a really cool tent that springs into shape but a pain in the ass to try and get back into a flat round shape I was ready to go in the water. I’d even taken off my shirt encouraged by some of the flabby out of shape old man bodies milling about the beachfront. But first, we all had a bite to eat. That old don’t eat before you swim myth is just that, a myth.
Eating done, Danusia announced, “I’m going in the water!” “Me too,” I said. “Us too, said Kasia. And the four of us waded in.
The water was cold, I had hoped it would be a little warmer, but I sucked it up and braved the cold. I went in up to my chest, and then a big wave came and broke over my head and it was no use trying to keep my hair dry. I let the fears go and enjoyed being in the water and bouncing in the waves the way I’d done as a child. At least now I know to stand sideways against the tide so I don’t get knocked over and under the way it happened so many years ago in the Rockaways.
Besides the four of us there weren’t may people in the water. “Look!” Danusia said. “More people are coming in the water because of us!” And they were, now. I was just beginning to relax and enjoy it when there was a frantic whistling from the shore.
“Out of the water! Everybody out of the water!” It was a young woman in a bikini holding one of those white lifeguards floats under one arm. “There’s sharks in the water! No swimming. The drones have spotted sharks in the water.”
Damn! The first time in years I’m digging being in the water in years we get thrown out of the water. It was a little more than five minutes, I think more like fifteen, but I fulfilled my own promise to myself.
Later that night we were watching TV after taking showers and eating dinner. Danusia suddenly kissed me and said, “Thank you,” while looking deeply into my eyes. Puzzled, I tried to think of what kind of good deed I’d done to merit such a special thank you, I said, “For what?”
“For going in the water with me today,” she said.
It is the little things that count.