Andrew had decided to lock the car while he took a pee, more afraid of the monster in the parking lot than the one in the car . . .
Annie woke up in any case, as he downshifted for the off ramp.
“You were supposed to stay asleep until I could show you the sea.”
“You’re so romantic, dear.” She took his arm as they walked in from the parking lot and he squeezed against her, his hand over hers. The air had cooled a bit, and already life was quieter. The black of the sky echoed the dark of the car; their fellow travelers were a handful of truck drivers and salesmen.
Back at the car, Andrew smoked a cigarette and Annie did stretches. “Are you OK?” she asked.
“Fine, he said. “Maybe thinking too much. But being angry with myself works to keep me awake.”
“Talk to me then. I can sleep later.” He had one more thing to tell her, she was sure. She didn’t know exactly what bad news it was, but if forced to guess, she could have.
“No,” he said, “rest now. We have all week to talk. Imagine that,” he said, looking at her. “All week. What are we going to talk about?”
“Well, you’ll buy the newspapers every morning and get depressed. We can talk about that.”
“And you, what will be your topics?”
She thought for only a moment. “Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.”
“Let’s go!” He tossed the cigarette and opened the door for her.
“Turn on the radio if you want. There’s a good jazz station in Worcester.”
* * * * * *
And they did it, almost as imagined. They bailed out before Truro, in Wellfleet, because the National Seashore beach there had restrooms and, at 6:30 in the morning, free parking from which you could walk straight—almost straight—from the car, across the beach, and into the water.
“OK,” said Andrew, “we hold hands, like this, and we walk in. No stopping. We can scream, but we can’t stop walking—"
The morning was deliciously cool and the water downright frigid and they did it anyway, into the water and jumping up and down, screaming.
They weren’t alone, but they hadn’t expected to be alone. People walked their dogs along the water; people took their morning run; people examined pebbles.
“Ah, Saturday,” said a man in a floppy khaki sunhat, walking a white standard poodle. “Drive far?”
“Six hours,” said Annie, offering her fist for the dog to sniff. Andrew was floating in the water, his feet sticking up, his nose visible. “Is the tide going in or out?”
“It’s coming in,” said the man. “Be careful where you nap.”
So Annie noted the water line and made them a camp just beyond it. They ate hard-boiled eggs and drank water and observed the sweep of the beach and the curve of the land. They set out to walk the curve of the land and realized after half an hour that it went on forever, which was wondrous but exhausting, so they walked back and lay side by side.
* * * * * * * * *
3 p.m. Andrew’s watch beeped, twice. He took his baseball cap off his face and sat up. He found his pills and a bottle of water in Annie’s little cooler, took a pill and looked around him. They’d changed beaches to this one in Truro, walking here from free parking, a beach even more dramatic than the National Seashore. He was getting antsy about calling into the radio station, but he would do that from the house. Maybe. From underneath his hat he breathed slowly and deeply and made himself focus on the sound of the waves.
Annie must have gone for a walk—no, wait, the madras bedspread, in faded stripes, about a yard away from him wasn’t just a pile of fabric. She was wrapped inside it, covered from her feet to her head, her Panama hat over her face. Andrew sat cross-legged, facing her, watching for movement, absorbing the chill of the wrapped body by the side of the road . . . he shivered once, to wake, and waited. When he couldn’t bear the stillness of her anymore, he touched the cloth over her arm.
“Hey,” said Annie, muffled. “Was that three o’clock?”
“Why are you wrapped up like this?”
Her long fingers appeared, a bit of slender arm with fine blond hairs, as she took the hat off her face. “I’m not supposed to get in the sun.”
She said this matter-of-factly, but in his fatigue it struck him. He put his head into his hands. “What are we doing here.”
Annie sat up. “We’re having an adventure. Some discomfort must be expected.”
“This is civilization. We could have spent a week in a hotel in New York.”
“I wear sun block,” she said, putting on her hat. “The house is beautiful. The beach is beautiful.”
“Your house is fine. I would have driven you to the pond every afternoon.”
“It’s true, I prefer fresh water, after three o’clock.”
“But you went to the beach every summer.”
“—Ed loved the ocean. He just loved it.”
“You made a drive you hated and risked melanoma.”
“One week out of the year. It seemed like something I could give him.”
They were looking at each other from under the shade of their hats, his eyes pale blue, hers green. And you, thought Andrew, what gift did you receive from him?
He didn’t ask. She would say that wasn’t the point. Or, she would have no answer, and still insist it wasn't the point.
Copyright © 2014 Debby Mayer