Tampa, FL – February 10, 2013
I woke up on an empty beach. The eastern sky glowed, but the sun hadn’t reached the horizon. Fifty sea gulls stood on the tip of the island staring at me, wondering if they could eat me or if I could eat them. I moved and they flew away. Off in the distance I saw a person, one person, alone on the beach, walking in the cool air and stooping for shells. I packed and slid into the water before they reached me.
Another person, then a couple more. The sun popped over the horizon, bright and hot, the blue sky perfect behind it. I passed a man sitting in a lounge chair, sunglasses on his face, a towel hanging over one armrest. He just smiled at nothing or everything. I couldn’t tell.
People walked every hundred yards. Then every fifty. They pointed at the boat and smiled. Some waived. I waived back. Everyone looked happy. Cars filled a parking lot. People flooded out of them and onto the beach, thick in front of the pavement, their skin glowing with sunscreen, kids charging into the water. The crowd thinned out every step further away from the parking lot.
The world heated up. Boats flashed across the water. Umbrellas dotted the shore. Bathing suits and towels turned the white sand into a canvas of colors. I scanned the beach for an empty spot and slid ashore, feeling alone, cut-off, almost like a ghost watching the people around me.
Then a boat came close and I stood up, squinted at it, unsure. They waved and shouted my name. I waived back.
Diego and Cela jumped in the water and swam to shore. A moment later Larry paddled up on a kayak they had strapped to the deck. Then Mercedes and Warren came over. We ate sandwiches and bought ice cream at the concession stand. Told jokes and laughed. Took pictures and watched dolphins swim by.
And I felt like part of it all, granted entry into civilization again.
For a few days.