3: Friday (not) at the beach

I moved back to Northern California from Los Angeles three years ago. A week into the second act of life in my new, old, city, I re-discovered two truths I can’t believe I’d forgotten.

One: Everyone moves at the speed of light. The urgency to get through traffic, the line at Starbucks, the aisles of Whole Foods and the sidewalks of Santa Monica feel dizzying to me, still moving at my Sacramento pace.

Two: The weather is absolutely gorgeous, every, single day. The knowing of this as a fact of life in Southern California doesn’t compare to the sensation of living it. The warm invitation to escape routine and obligation comes each morning through the rise of the sun in another, cloudless sky.

It’s Friday, the end of my first week of school and my RSVP to the Pacific Ocean is a resounding, yes.

My friend Peter is in town. Peter is my summer camp soulmate. He is five and a half years younger than me and barely an inch and a half taller. We’ve been inexplicably inseparable since our first year working together. In the summer of 2003, I had just finished my freshman year at UCLA, and he was fresh out of junior high. We were an unlikely duo. He was a nerdy, pubescent, punk and at least in my mind, I’ve always been wiser and more sophisticated than my age in years. At 19, I had a lot of sage advice and life experience perspective to offer him.

He’s 22 now. The intense, reflective emotions and intoxicating joy of our last summer camp season together had felt like falling in love. We were discovering what our relationship could be now that we’re both (almost) grown-ups. We were exploring whether our undeniable connection transcended the insulation of our tiny, shared make- believe universe, or if our love only lived breathed in the hot air and late sunsets of June through August.

It was almost September, the weather was perfect and we were headed to the beach.

I had to make a pit stop on campus. There was a student activities fair and I wanted to explore my options for distractions from studying and potential friend-making. I wouldn’t be teaching any yoga and so far my neighbors were invisible, likely spending their waking hours in the library. I needed an interest, or hobby or attractive 20-something to help pass the time between final exams.

I’m circling the beige, fold-up, square tables, unimpressed by the mostly legal-focused pamphlets distributed by downtrodden looking law students who could barely force excitement about the organizations they joined purely to augment their resumes. I was just about to pull Peter from the crowd of wanna-be adults into which he easily blended when I spotted Nick on the other side of the quad.

Our last communication was my five exclamation point email.

I bounce up to him with my arms stretched out. My keys and cell phone are tucked in the pockets of my turquoise cotton sundress. I slide my sunglasses to the top of my head so he can see my face and I wrap him in the type of hug you give an old friend when you pick them up from the airport after a long absence. He stiffens up and his face looks startled. He has two heavy books in his hand and appears to be carrying six more on his back. He’s wearing a white collared shirt and light blue shorts. He has stylish, black-framed glasses that I hadn’t noticed when we met two weeks earlier.

He’s pretty handsome, actually.

I tell him I’m headed to Santa Monica and suggest he stash his books in his locker and join me. I slide my right sleeve down to reveal the top of my swimsuit and tell him it’s the perfect day to dive through the waves. He declines, insists he needs to spend “a few hours in the library” then motions clumsily to his heavy load. I make one last attempt to persuade him by offering the chance to play with my giant hula hoop, his feet wet in the high tide. He glances from my toes to my forehead with an expression suggesting this is our last conversation, then affirms his “no” response to my invitation.

He barely smiles through the whole exchange.

I find Peter posing as a student at a table for the Federalist society, grab him by the arm and whisk him off for our day of sun, sand and giant hula hooping.

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