I frequented the beach for many a summer.
The glittering silver line of the south shore of Long Island had a particular significance for me. The proximity of the big vein of the Earth is so palpable here, and listening to the tidal whoosh of its heartbeat makes me feel safe and loved, back in the womb, primordially united with all my mothers, untouched by time. Through the enormous lens marked with the line of horizon the truth itself seems to manifest its constant presence, speaking – sometimes in whisper, occasionally shouting, – implying that you have to muster up a semblance of a match.
The observable ritual of my pilgrimage is very simple: I trot to the least populated spot, drop my things, walk ankle high into the water, stand still for some time, say my greetings, walk back to my things, spread the towel and lay down for a bit, continuing with my salutations. After that I take a long walk, intermittent with dipping and frolicking, meditations and pensive fits. Usually it takes hours, feels like eternity and fills me with almost unbearable happiness.
That day everything went wrong. I twisted my foot trotting to the least populated spot, dropped my things, walked ankle high into the water and almost immediately was knocked over by a huge wave that rolled me back and forth along with gooey jelly fish and fossils of horse shoe crabs. I emerged from the water gasping for air, shaking off capricorns of sea horses and cornucopias of daphnia, pulling sand from my hair and squinting myopic eyes in a feeble attempt to regain my bearings. My high dioptre glasses, without which the shapes, colors and distances are blurred and confused, were gone. Shocked, I went back to my things, spread the towel and laid down in dismay thinking about my loss, how and when I could replace it and what to do in the interim.
The fact that it wasn’t my first summer on this beach and the place wasn’t densely populated meant that other people with a similar predilection had become familiar, at least physically, and we exchanged the gestures of recognition quite regularly. Noticing someone waving his hand in my direction I wasn’t surprised and responded in a similar way – just in case the greeting was indeed intended for me. In a moment a tall stranger with decent physique approached me with a grin.
I dismissed his admiring glance with the words: “I don’t date on the beach and am not about to break my rule.” The truth be told, at the time I was still convalescing from a devastating heart break, and forming new amorous relationship didn’t interest me at all.
“What about an off-beach setting?” The tall fellow wasn’t to be brushed off easily.
“Well, I could give you my phone number. Call me,” I said.
“I don’t have a pen to write it down. Do you have one?” he asked.
“No, I don’t,” was my reply. “Can you memorize it?”
“Sorry, my memory is terrible.”
“But mine is terrific,” I volunteered an absolutely unnecessary piece of information.
“Great,” beamed my new acquaintance. “I’ll give you my number and you’ll call me soon, OK?”
“Sure,” I agreed, and the digits were ushered into my memory.
The fellow bid me far away and resumed his stroll along the beach. The giant lens of truth not only refused me any signs but instead erased completely the vague features of the man’s face.
The rest of my outing was relatively uneventful and routinely joyful. Time passed. I didn’t remember the beach guy’s name but I did remember his number. I had no desire to call him, but the number flashed in my memory like a disturbing alarm. Besides, I did promise to call, and I was not in a habit of collecting broken promises.
When we got together in the city – I was a city girl, didn’t I mention? – I failed to recognize the man from the beach. Wearing glasses didn’t help either, and why should it? But despite my obliviousness to his presence, he spotted me right away. We took a walk in Central Park and talked about this and that. I found my date much too young and different from the type of people I’d be attracted to. Culturally, educationally, socially there was an abyss between us. By the end of the day he offered to accompany me home and we walked seven miles to my place. I had no idea that his feet, sporting new shoes, were bleeding, and I tried to convey to him that the sooner he went back home to Long Island the better. It didn’t seem to me like a match.
But even if you don’t hear it, the truth is always whispering. Occasionally shouting. Five years later we got married. Our anniversaries we celebrate on the beach, together with capricorns of seahorses, fossils of horse shoe crabs and cornucopias of daphnia, amidst glittering sand and the sparkling foam of the ocean, and the tale of how we met we call the East End Story.