LATE ON AN EARLY JULY morning, a woman sat on a beach in East Hampton, New York staring at the comings-and-goings of the Atlantic’s waves. She was a very pretty woman with blonde hair and a face of perfectly imperfect parts. It had rained overnight, and she’d been awakened at some time—maybe three-thirty or four; she hadn’t the energy to grab her phone to find out—but had fallen back into a deep sleep. The interruption meant she wasn’t well rested for this, the first day of her weeklong vacation.
She shared a house well to the north of Route 27 and thus well to the north of the one-percenters who populated the town, especially in the summer. The women she shared the cottage with had returned to the City the prior afternoon; the weather did not bode well for waiting to fight the traffic back to Manhattan.
Her sitting on the sand without a towel was peculiar. Who’d come to a beach without a towel and sit down, letting the dampness creep up to her ass? She didn’t look comfortable to anyone passing but seeing how lousy the weather was there was no one passing except a couple of lovebirds who looked to be heading to Amagansett, holding their hands and weaving back and forth into the froth edge of the water as their shoulders bounced against each other.
She, the pretty one, noticed them walking away and seeing them did not help her mood. Her mood? It was dark. That’s the only word for it.
Strangers envied her. Her looks. Her maroon BMW 5-Series and apartment in a brownstone in a fashionable part of the Upper East Side. A job at a prestigious bank in midtown. She was what one imagined a pretty-girl-in-the-Hamptons looked like. Probably partied late into most summer weekend mornings. The type who’d get an invite when on line at the Starbucks on Main Street for a party at the house of some Goldman Sachs or hedge fund guy, a house that overlooked the Atlantic and had plenty of booze and coke for the asking.
Type cast, she knew, and too often she went to those parties and stayed late—or left early for some passingly diverting sex before getting back to her little non-descript room in her little non-descript cottage. And more often than not, the guy she liaisoned with barely nodding to her, if that, when they again crossed paths at the Starbucks or beach or some other mansion with an ocean view.
That’s what she was thinking as she sat in the damp sand. I’m pretty and smart and I have a crap job in a bank’s back office and pay too much for my apartment and for garaging my five-year-old beamer. She had no problem getting laid—though she was smart enough to insist on protection (which she carried with her just in case)—and sitting on the beach on this particular Monday she still had a revolting memory of the quickie in the back seat of a black Escalade early the morning before, whose owner, of course, barely gave her a “thank you” when he left her after locking his SUV.
You know, she thought, maybe I could just sit here forever, counting the waves till I ran out of numbers. Then when I got up I’d be a different person, a real person. A woman who could be loved. Not like whatever she had with her fiancé, who’d broken it off the year before for reasons she never understood. That marriage, though, would have been a disaster so she was glad it never happened, disappointed as everyone was by it, her parents most of all.
It was still a bit misty and once her shorts were soaked through it didn’t much matter that she was sitting on the wet sand. Her windbreaker kept her tolerably warm in the chill air and her feet had gotten used to the soft sand and her toes had actually dug themselves into it. She wondered about a lot of things as she sat there.
I know what they were because that woman was me. I say was advisedly. There I was. I noticed that there was a glimmer of blue off in the west. Yes, the sky would clear and the beach would fill up. I’d be gone by the time the families invaded, the mothers and the au pairs with their charges crying and screaming and racing to and from the water.
What was going to happen in an hour or two hardly mattered as I returned to my obsessive staring out into the nothingness of the Atlantic. Before I got up, though, a moment of serendipity in time and place intervened. A stranger, a woman around my age who was pleasant looking appeared. Angelic, perhaps, but she was all too real. She came from nowhere on the otherwise deserted beach. She reached to touch me, and this invasion startled me. For just a moment, though. Her simple, kind touch followed by wanting to know, genuinely wanting to know why I was sitting alone in wet shorts staring out at the ocean. Her simple touch and simple question led inextricably to my finding love, life, and myself. Which is for another day.
(Note: This is adapted from Part 2 of the author’s novella, Accidently in Love.)