I needed an elective credit outside of my major my sophomore year at Boston University. I took a class called Coastal Environments with my teammate and fellow education major Marti. We thought it would be easy. I mean, what is so complex about the beach?
Turns out quite a bit!
The professor had us call him Duncan. He was easy on the eyes, so Marti and I did a lot of staring. You could tell who the science majors were because “Dunc the Hunk” called on them frequently. There were field trips, projects, and extremely difficult tests. My only college “C” was in that class.
I still remember a lot of what I learned.
Dune scarp, for example is the sediment that solidifies sand dunes into more permanent structures that often-become islands. These little islands are called drumlins. There are many in Boston Harbor. The scarp lesson stuck with me because he used an analogy that most New Englander’s could relate to.
When they are melting away, the splash from cars and the dirt from the plows that add to them solidifies and turns black. The snow becomes solid, like ice. They form along streets and driveways. I can not look at a dirty pile of snow and not think of “scarp”.
We took a field trip to Singing Beach.
Not shown in this picture of the beach is a rocky inlet ripe with sea life and beautiful rock ledges and cliffs. It is called singing beach because the grains of sand are all perfectly round and symmetrical. When rubbed together they make a singing sound. Modern life makes it too loud to actually hear this most days, but I never forgot that either. It feels different than most sand when you let it fall through your fingers. I returned to this beach with various college friends during my Boston years.
Thirty years after my first visit I was back.
This visit should have been more telling of how one sided my relationship was with Roy. I was just so happy to be at the beach finally that I put it out of my mind and enjoyed the day. Most of the outings and excursions we did together were planned by Roy. He orchestrated everything. He would often say “what do YOU want to do?” but it asked rhetorically.
We did what he planned.
Don’t get me wrong, I always had fun. Museums, state parks, restaurants and quaint villages were his jam. I enjoyed the jam too. On the day of the above pictured Facebook post he “took me to the beach”. I do not remember exactly how this came about but if I had to guess we had likely argued and he replied “fine, we will go to the beach”.
The October Day was a classic Indian Summer Day.
I arrived at his house and we packed the car with a beautiful picnic lunch, chairs and towels. We headed north toward Gloucester and Manchester. When we arrived at the “beach” we were actually at a park located on an inlet. There were grassy knolls, trees, rocks, docks, and boats. A lovely gazebo.
But there was no beach.
In exploring the venue, we did find a stretch of sand. We set up our chairs and ate lunch. It was buggy. It did not smell very good. The water was stagnant and showed the rainbow colors of boat fuel. I wasn’t sure what to do. If I complained it would lead to a fight. Fortunately for me Roy wasn’t comfortable either.
I suggested Singing Beach.
He had never been and I loved being able to show HIM things sometimes. We drove the relatively short drive and parked the car. What I thought would happen is that we would sit together, enjoy the sun, hold hands perhaps and spend time together. We dropped our stuff on that fabulous sand. I gazed longingly at the water; he eyed the rocky inlet. So, I took him there.
That is where he stayed.
After several minutes I returned to our stuff. I stripped down to my bathing suit. I ran into the water and dove in. I had signaled to him that I was doing this and when I surfaced from the cold water and turned to wave, he had disappeared. As I sighed and turned my gaze to the horizon, I came face to face with an elderly gentleman named Manuel.
He loved the cold water too.
We spent the better part of an hour in that surf, well over our heads, treading water and sharing life stories. A Cuban immigrant, he had a lot to share. When we finally returned to the shore Roy had returned to our chairs. I said goodbye to Manuel and thanked him for the conversation. I walked up the beach to Roy. I told him about my conversation, he told me about his pictures.
I looked at them all as we drove back to his apartment.
He commented that I seemed to have more fun with “that old man” than I did with him. There was no correct way to respond to this without an argument so I simply said I wanted to give him space and time to take his pictures. What I really wanted was a beach day with Roy, and he created a day close enough to a beach day that he could say he had done what I wanted and that I still wasn’t happy.
He gave me a “picnic in the park” day. I gave myself a beach day.
Four months after Molly died, Roy posted a picture of him on a beach chair in Bermuda. He had started dating just two months after we unplugged her and he was now on a cruise. He was wearing sun glasses and had a tan and the beginnings of a sunburn. He was on a beach flashing a huge smile. Why was he happy to be at the beach with her and not me? That picture hit me hard. It also makes THIS picture more meaningful because the foreshadowing is now so obvious.
“This is the Atlantic Ocean” I posted. “I swam in it today” I continued. “It was lovely”.
My summation of that day was a beach shot, empty of me and Roy, with a commentary about the ocean.
I will never forget that day.
I will also forever remember that swim and meeting Manuel.
It will always be a beautiful day.
Let the healing continue.