The gentle salt filled breeze of the Atlantic wandered off the cool waves and ambled a bit over the large rocks before fanning my face with its pungent fumes of seaweed impregnated with brine. The sun had fallen hours ago, but despite its counterpart’s elegant exit, the moon was still mostly absent, except for the occasional shy peek through the slow moving dark clouds, helping to briefly illuminate the retreating tide.
My family had come to this lonely stretch of beach for most of my life. Unlike the well-known beach towns that made this area famous, this was not a place of wealth. There was little sand (it was more like gravel than anything else) and a heavy bit of debris that washed ashore from the harsh high tide including large wooden logs and piles of algae. In spite of that, it felt quite elegant to working class families like mine who were lucky enough to spend a few weeks here each summer. We liked to think of it as a hidden gem, where as I am sure those that resided in large beach bungalows just north of here would consider it a poor man’s retreat.
I had waited for everyone to fall asleep before I let myself out so as to not invite the puritanical lectures on the dangers of the sea and nightfall, or wake any other line of questioning in regards to my motives for such an outing. Explaining why I was even awake at that hour, let alone traipsing off onto a deserted beach would make for some uncomfortable lies, especially to the children would would telephone them to ears not meant to hear truths or lies alike. I had to walk lightly so as to not give too much pressure to the old weathered stairs that would let out a loud creak if stepped on wrong. Once free of the decking, I quietly let myself out through the little brown gate out front and took off down the dirt road.
After a quarter of a mile I dipped into an overgrown dirt path down a steep embankment that gave entrance to the beach. There were several entrance points like this where once accessed you could walk the open shoreline for miles, however you had to know where they were. You had no other way of admission to the beach other than taking a 30 foot dive off of the steep cliffs that lined the coast of the shore or by swimming in from an anchored boat.
When I was young, myself and some other kids had built a hut out of branches and weeds that somehow, despite harsh winters and raging summer storms, continued to stand. This is where I sat, alone with only the whispers of the waves breaking just a few feet from the edge of the hut. I thought of the kids I used to spend my summers with, many of which had grown up and had families. Some still came back, a powerful reminder of the magnetism of this place, or maybe the nostalgia of youth; I still hadn't decided. I took my shoes off, inviting the frigid water to lap at my toes which it seemed to appreciate and obliged. This was my refuge, seemingly so far away from the pressures of "the real world" or whatever constructs people assigned to that phrase. The reality of my life at home seemed melancholy in comparison to the relative freedom of late night walks on the beach, and was worth forgetting even if only for such a short period of time each year.
I squinted at my watch; 1:57. I was on time. I thought about the tides and how similar they were to romance. There were dominant forces, the sun and the moon, both buying for power and control. Although it seemed like they shared the tides, often times it felt more like the tides controlled them. So the dance would go, each partner taking turns being the lead. When the Sun was so inclined, it would be heavily involved, pulling at the currents and washing their surfaces with passionate reverence. Yet, it would grow tired, and then the Moon would come to coo with all of it’s zealous reverence. One worships while the other grows distant. Only at the right time do both give and receive their love at the same time, and that is why it is called the magic hour. A love as old as time cannot be perpetually in sync, it can only weather the distance until the forces that be coincide for one enchanted moment.
I felt a tickle at the back of my neck and I knew it struck 2 a.m. She was always on time. I did not turn around, but closed my eyes and smiled. When I opened them, she was standing in front of me smiling coyly and gently petting the side of my head. I said nothing and buried my head into her torso. Silence fell, with the only audible noises being that of our deep breaths. My pulse was quicker now and my chest felt hot.
“It’s nice to see you.” She finally whispered.
I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just nodded in agreement. She sat down beside me and we both stared stoically out into the dark undulating abyss. I could feel her gaze re-focus upon me. She grabbed my hand and gave a little pressure, indicating she wanted my attention. My heart beat quicker and my breathing grew shallow.
“Look at me” she said in a soft but firm voice. She seemed to have known of the rigidity in her voice so she followed with a softer “please?”
I raised my head and met her gaze. Her eyes looked like slate in the murky darkness but they were nonetheless piercing.
Moments or hours later, I’m not sure which, I remember laying under the hut, my head on her naked breasts as her chest softly swelled to the rhythm of the flow surf. My fingers traced the rim of her belly button. Her skin was milky and pale and soft like aged down feathers.
“I should leave, they’ll wonder where I’ve gone” she said with a tinge of reluctance.
“Me too.” I uttered.
We dressed and got up, fixing our eyes not on each other but still on the waves. The moon had revealed itself finally and the beach became awash in a pallid glow. I could see her finish the last chest button on her flowy dress.
“Same time tomorrow?” She asked.
“Don't go” I blurted out.
“Shh. Don’t do that.” She replied.
I looked back out to the sea. I thought in the moonlight I could make out a distant shore. I wondered about the idea of multiverses, and if there was a beach somewhere in the galaxy where another version of myself did not need to visit. That beach would be empty because I would be asleep in bed conjoined with her and our sheets. Then another thought came into my head that there was equally as a likely a chance that on the same beach in another world where there was me and only me. Maybe there was another where there was no me and only her. Maybe there was another where there was a beach and no one ever found it. The speculation of parallel universes is a silly endeavor.
The sun peaked out over far reaches of the adjacent shore but the moon had already fallen. The sun was in charge of the tide again and the wind smelled of dead fish.
“what’s wrong” she asked as she put her smooth hand on my hip.
“If the world was flat we could just walk off of it”
“What?” She asked half concerned.