Rock star days

Sunday, August 23, 2020

7:37 am / front porch, outermost cottage, Cape Cod

In the before times, I was a rock star.

It was an annual ritual. After the six-hour, early morning drive to Cape Cod, the hour of unpacking the truck and organizing the cottage, the two-hour supply foraging trip with stops at Star Market, Luke’s Liquors and Buckie’s Biscotti, and the unpacking and organizing of the groceries and such, it was time for the first descent upon the beach.

I would depart ahead of B, leaving him to slather his Irish self with SPF 50+ sunblock, and walk barefoot along the path among the cottages, watchful for pine cones and overripe blackberries fallen from the bushes, noting the license plates of the cars parked alongside the cottages scattered within the undeveloped, overgrown compound. Connecticut plates and serious roof rack = the seriously athletic and geared-up family. A minivan and a four-door both with Jersey plates = the boricuas also from Jersey City, the only other Puerto Ricans likely within a twenty-mile radius, whose presence sparked the delicious anticipation of hearing salsa in the quiet afternoons and possibly an invite to taste arroz con gandules and tostones.

At the edge of the compound property where it meets the road, I look both ways though I can hear any vehicle that might be approaching at five miles per hour from at least a city block length away. I cross toward the hand-painted sign that reads “Cottages, Private path” at the opening of the shaded path and look at the assorted collection of flip flops and sandals at the base of the tree with the heavy limb that hangs low enough that even all five-foot-two of me has to duck under.

I ascend the sandy path that cuts through the tangles of beach plum bushes and bay grass that cover the hill, and the sounds of the beach reach me before the sight of it does. The crack of shells as gulls drop clams or crab bits or oysters on the rocks below to feast on the revealed flesh. Laughter and bits of conversation carried on the breeze. “… no parking at the Beach Comber…grilling tonight…maybe a bonfire fire later…what are you reading?”

Every year, I pause just before cresting the hill, my hard-wired, born-introverted hesitation that still takes over each time I’m about to plunge into a new space: the front of a classroom, a Zoom video conference, a stage. I inhale, take the final step onto the top of the hill and exhale at the first call of “Nancy!” and begin my descent onto the beach, watching the turning heads, energetic waves, emboldened by calls of “Hey!”, “Cuz!”, “Look who’s here!”

I don’t need to call upon an inner Beyonce because that is the moment I feel La Nancy: awaited. Adored. What beach towel or huddle of chairs to greet first? I start at the right-most beach umbrella. There’s no rush, enough La Nancy for everyone sharing the patch of beach for the next few hours over the course of the next few days. There were tight, sandy hugs, kisses, and hugs again as I accept a cold one (always a pilsner, never an IPA because they know) dug out from the bottom of the cooler by Andrew or little Charlie and handed directly to me, our faces within inches of the other as we talk too loudly and excitedly. I clink my bottle with everyone as I make the rounds, and eventually settle on Bridget or Ali’s beach towel so we can share updates and airspace, often my head on one of their shoulders to make up for the months of miles between us, lifting my head only to yell out crossword answers to Chris (because I am the queen of the black and white grid).

Such recklessness. All that risky behavior. Hugging. Kissing. Sharing. I lived on it.

I think about the before times often during these times, conflicted by the gratitude that I have experienced such richness and the simultaneous feeling of loss (and anger? Resentment? Despair? Anxiety?) because I can’t experience it now. I wonder when–if–there will be more rock star days.

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