A friend’s last-minute invite to a beach dance party is the gift I need. Summer has made a special preview visit, confusing everyone with warm air but clammy sand a few inches down. She will make a dance floor for freeform ruckus. Tiki torches will hold in the edges. I have been hiking all day and there will be nowhere to park, but no cannot be an answer to such a yes.
The sand is packed with revelers, strollers, hangers-on. Teens clamber or slink by, or slide on disallowed skateboards. There is raucous joyous noise reflected in a light without texture, only presence. Mountains rise up out of the water with the sun clear color behind, descending into night’s expectation.
The dance floor is installed, an impromptu work of plywood and duct tape. Their fire pit is impromptu too, a hole dug with many sharing hands and roaring with sawed-up pallet wood. The wood is bone dry and snaps and sparks like the dragons inside are breaking free. There are coolers and brown paper bags and the lumpy fabric beach bags of every mom everywhere, stuffed with fixings and backups and the palliative for every childhood calamity.
There are hugs and heady greetings. There will be dancing. The kids have Magic Markers and are anointing the dance floor. I am ashamed to not remember exactly what they wrote, but it was something like Super Fantastic Beach Dance Dance Floor!!!
Night falls in a hurry, which I hardly notice as I talk with someone new. There’s a lot to talk about on a noisy beach, the stars out, waves crashing, teenage girls with tallboys wandering to our dance floor and asking if they can use it. It’s not really ours, my new friend explains, and the teen girls are ecstatic with permission. We watch them hug each other and dance sloppily. They’re happy and not too messy. It’s the beach–there’s already sand everywhere.
The last weeks have been hard for me, grinding and staticy, waiting for the pills to work and assaulted with unfamiliar with side effects I don’t remember from last time. But at the beach, sitting in a fabric chair at the edge of duct-taped plywood, my new friend and I talk about theatre and improv and writing and what it is we are doing right now. It is easy and release. We are in the heart of right now together and anxiety cannot exist.
She has a show coming up, but is weary of anything administrative having to do with theatre. Even handing out a postcard is work, she says. She does tax law and is thinking of going back to school for more training. It’s exciting and interesting to me. I lean a little forward. Excitement is contagious. We all need to be excited about something. We are all in different places.
Night brings out the crowds as much as the sun has. For all the naysayers, the doomers, those who believe the slightest pause in the desperate pressure of rules and laws that are our only bulwark against anarchy: look to this beach. Drunks, sure. Revelers, sure. The teenage girls and their tallboys have wandered off with their standard issue lunky male companions, maybe off to a plush van for some action. This is all a calamity only to the bluest of noses. Back before cities, before agriculture, back when we hunted and gathered and were done with the day, this is what we did. This is why it feels so normal and so good. Homo sapiens, this is who you are: a happy person, surrounded and sated by friends, ringing a fire.
Like the desert, the beach turns to cold stone when the light goes down. I’m glad I changed from hiking and wore shoes, as much as I dread the sand that will be in them; I can zip my flimsy jacket no tighter. My friend decides to brave the women’s restroom line and I head to the fire.
Fire is an element. It calls to us, but is hard to understand. Still here and now I feel all the fires I have stared into, the same orange coals of shimmering jewel deserts, the same cracks and pops. All those fires are gone and all those fires are here. More wood is thrown on and the fire takes to it like the hungry magic that it is. It is bright and warm and it brings out thousands of laughs all up and down the beach. There must be a way to take some of this fire and take it with me, since I need it so much all the time.
Kids have sharp sticks and are burning marshmallows on them. Far off a girl screams, but their scream of shocked pleasure like when an approved boy pulls them. Piercing white cones arc out from cop cars.
And suddenly one is there: all sharp in a clean uniform, hands on hips. Hi, folks. Yeah, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we’ve gotta get the fire out. Everyone is friendly and nobody feigns surprise. The cop is apologetic about the limited number of fire pits. Everyone pushes in sand with wedged hands, like we did as kids pretending to be bulldozers. Dark gasps in, and echoes.
Whatever the fire was saying, people no longer hear it. Couples say drawn-out goodbyes and cart off kids. Fewer high school girls with tallboys wander by; the cops shine their light more. In the end there is only our host, her daughter, my new friend, and me. The cops announce the park is closing in thirty minutes and we are left with no more fire than tiki torches.
Before the duct tape is removed, the plywood sheets carted to the parking lot, the sand over the former fire doused with water, we sit in the fabric chairs. Look at those stars! And there they are, eternal above the city. The Big Dipper, even Orion though summer is coming on. Ferries shine out in the Sound and we are quiet here together, the hubbub behind us. For a moment yet it is Saturday night on the beach, unseen waves landing against a soft glow.