We’d heard there were some beaches along with the way that allowed camping. We didn’t really have a plan, exactly, to camp, but on the off chance that things lined up right, we’d brought some rudimentary camping gear.
We checked out of our hotel in the early morning and got some breakfast. I had the biggest, most insane omelette ever: five eggs; fresh basil, oregano, parsely, and cilantro; green, red, and white onion; olives; tomatoes; something like four or five different cheeses; and finally, chorizo and bacon.
I ate about a third of it, and suddenly felt like a wounded soldier in a war movie: clawing at the ground, head down in exhaustion, telling my buddies that I’m not gonna make it and to, “just go on without me.”
Today’s adventure was one long beach day! We made sure we had some snacks and drinks in our beach bag, and plenty of sunscreen--which didn’t matter because I fried like bacon anyway.
It was about one by the time we got ourselves situated. The wind blew right offshore, into the faces of oncoming waves, stalling them, causing them to stand tall instead of hunch their shoulders. These were small and medium sized waves--two to four feet--that broke in either direction; there was even a few A-frame waves.
We spread out our towels and marked our territory with a perimeter of bags, coolers, plastic bottles of suntan lotion, and tubes of sunscreen.
I sat on my board and studied the waves from behind my sunglasses as Brianna checked her work phone and just enjoyed the sunshine. A family of three was building a sandcastle in front of us, while children frolicked in the wave wash, adults dipping their toes in the water, shrieking, and then running up the beach to complain about how cold the water was. A man stood in hip-deep water with a small child on his shoulders. Beyond, several teenagers horsed around in the waves. But to my right, hugging the point, a group of surfers bobbed like little black neoprene buoys, rising and falling with the swells.
I’d unzipped my wetsuit, pulled my arms out and rolled it down to my waist to get some sun. Now, I zipped myself back up, grabbed my board, and headed out to meet the locals--which isn’t always a good idea. Surfers are tribal and territorial, and if you’re not of their tribe nor their territory, you can be treated with disdain and even hostility. After I turtle-rolled my way through the breakers, I paddled out in water almost certainly deeper than I was tall. Images of the shark sign at Surf Beach flashed in my head.
When I reached the line up I was surprised to see that everyone was around my age. They were all like me: working-class professionals, who “adulted” to the best of their ability when they had to, but never matured to the point of abandoning the great sport of surfing. They were husbands and fathers, and business owners, dentists, and the such--not the rowdy boys I was used to at “The ‘Bu.”
We all got a few good rides in throughout the day, and in between, I’d sit with Brianna in the sun to warm up, or have water fights with her. No one paid us any mind when we were lovey-dovey, not even this far removed from “Gay L.A.”
After two spectacular wipeouts after getting a little too cocky and trying to show off, my body was just...done. “Done” was a term I’d adopted since my MS diagnosis. It’s when your body is sore and stiff, and your joints don’t work, and you have exhaustion, head fog, and a headache that feels like your brain is trying to push your eyeballs out of your sockets from behind, and you just...can’t anymore.
I collapsed into a puddle on the sand, trying to sap some strength from the setting sun, as Brianna packed up around me. She left me there, packed the car back up, and even strapped my board to the rack, before coming back down to the beach and practically dragging me back.
We stopped off at a little store for food, water, and firewood. The idea of cooking hotdogs or something over an open fire sounded fun. But as I said, I was done. I shuffled through the store like a sunburnt zombie, dazed and confused, unconscious and uncaring of where I was and what was happening. So, instead of hotdogs, we just a bought a premade Greek salad and some cheese. Good enough. We also thought it would be great to sip from a bottle while lounging around a campfire, but made the mistake of buying some tacky liqueur because we thought it was fruit-infused vodka.
We drove down to the campsite in a hurry because the sun was getting low, and we didn’t want to have to try and set up a tent in the dark. Brianna again took point, setting up the tent while I helped in any way that I could from a sitting position.
There are always those jokes about lesbian relationships...about who opens the jars and who kills the spiders. Anyone who follows my hijinx on here, may recall me discussing this very issue when we had to cut into a spaghetti squash. Sometimes, you just need a man’s help. Most of the time, we happily make due, and, while both of us have been camping before, we discovered that neither of us knew how to start a fire. Thankfully, one of the rangers--I guess was his title--was a gentleman and helped us out.
Somewhere in the darkness, the surf boomed. Scattered laughter sounded in the distance, and lights from the nearby RV campground cast golden mottles of light on the dark sand. The fire crackled and the liquor warmed my tired bones. We ate our salad, having to take turns because we only had the one fork that came with it, admired each other’s beauty in the firelight (there is just something about the warm glow of a fire that accentuates an already pretty face), and talked out hypothetical scenarios of moving to the Central Coast.
We sat around the fire in hooded sweatshirts and beanies as the night temperature continued to plummet into the low 50s.
“This is the most beautiful place I’ve seen. I want to live here.”
“You’ve said that about every place we’ve been.”
“I know,” I said. “But I mean it this time. I’ve got you, I’ve got the beach, what more do I need?”
“Can you believe it’s been a week since the wedding already?”
I nodded sleepily.
“And you didn’t even want to come on this trip.”
“That’s not true. I said I couldn’t wait to start regular, boring, mundane real life with you.” My words made little sense and I was too tired to try and articulate further. But, basically, what I had meant was that I viewed the honeymoon as an extension of the wedding, and I was just so over all of that and ready to start the happily ever after part.
Brianna laughed. “You were this close to scrapping the whole thing in favor of a stay-cation--this close.” She held up her hand, her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. “Trust me. When we’re back home, we’ll fit right back into our lives--you love L.A. You’re so proud of it. It’s home now. You can’t possibly be in love with this place. It’s only been four days.”
She was right. But a lot had changed in those four days. “I mean it though. I mean, yes, you’re right. L.A. is home. And we’ll go back and live in L.A. But we’re not dying there. Moving to Northern California just became a life goal.”
She smiled, nodded, and agreed with me.
We lounged around in the sand, passing the bottle back and forth, the fire dying down. I don’t know what time it was when we crawled into the tent and went to sleep, but it was the best night’s sleep I can remember in a long time. Snuggled together, limbs intertwined, the sound of the incoming tide, and Brianna’s soft snoring against my earlobe, I dreamed a thousand dreams that night--some were ones that had already come true, and some were ones I vowed to make come true.
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