Summer is made for that final weekend, that last chance at the beach the cooling air the still-warm waters. So may endings liven the light, make that campfire on the beach that much more meaningful. To the young, they rise up and pretend at nostalgia in the glimmering last light of a shortening day wistful and wilding for that time so-long-ago when they were innocent, way back in July. For the old they pretend that nothing has changed, that tomorrow will be like today, that they just didn’t blink and lose another year.
All that went wrong before is ok this weekend. The sand in the tacos, the lost blanket, the dog who ran away, all now just a laugh, just something funny that we know we will all be laughing about when we’re older. That last weekend at the beach, in the tree house, in the Iron Fort, in all those places we hide away in order to enjoy a few long weekends to pretend that the world can be escaped. We rushed before to the beach. We fought with our manager for an early release on Friday. We were stuck in traffic with the sun beating down and the air conditioner broken. We rushed to get sun. We hurried to have fun before going to bed. Now. Now we are in no hurry and it is all we have. That pealing skin and the new lines in our faces, cut by reflecting light and too much chlorine in the pool.
There were several gift shops still open, which seemed ever strange. It lent an even more abandoned cast to the empty sidewalks. Could these places even make up the cost of electric by selling a single key chain for the entire day? Most places seemed in a state of suspension. Everything in its place, the mugs, the dumb gifts, the depressing bags of shells from China and Mexico branded with the local beach logo, the accoutrements of vacationers set up and lonely looking mute and pastel in their shelves and displays. What shit, I thought as I picked up a few post cards. Where does this shit go in people’s houses and how long between purchase and discard? There must be a pile somewhere of beach crap that grows ever more with each passing summer. But, this is what summer’s end is for. Reflection.
You can work in the chicken houses, you can fish, or you can work here, said the bartender. The other patrons were far and few and I had walked to the hotel in order to find some small nibble and of course, a stiff drink or ten. The collection in the bar were for the most part locals, that is, other bartenders still stranded on the beachfront. The noise in the other room was that of the conventioneers. Off-season conventions, certified accountants specializing in foster care child tax credits, dog trainer assistants who work with blind hounds, convection oven sales people, or the current group, people interested in learning about how to bid to large city and small state contracts according to the bids and proposal guidelines of respective laws. The man who came in to inform the bartender that the party room needed some more ice worked in blacktopping parking lots and was there with his lovely wife to learn how to bid on a few Atlanta contracts coming up. You can work in the chicken houses, you can fish, or you can work here… I thought.
There is indeed something quite magical about the twilight on the beach as summer comes to a close. The slant of the light, the crashing of the waves, the call of the birds, and that one or two other melancholy figures wandering the beach.
The man who sold blacktop parking lots and sold them to county court houses and DMVs talked a bit about the last year, about the last convention. It was in Nashville and he had enjoyed it more. We are one of the last places to close up here, the bartender told me, so we get all the meetings all the groups who are totally random. But apparently not Star Wars funny haha LARPer random but ZZZZZzzzzz blah blah blah paragraph three section D of the code of blah blah blah random. I took my final drink and exited to the now darken beach lit by the security lights of the hotels, condos, and closed beach houses.
I wondered if there was but a little more life in another hotel. I stopped by one that in summer was perhaps trendy now the large objects and beach theme contemporary just seemed silly. We’re closing soon, the girl behind by a small stand that perhaps took names when there was a line to get in said as I entered. I assured her I needed to rise with the sun the next day and I would not be staying long. At the end of summer, everything closes with the sun. The drink tasted like plastic, as if the little umbrella had melted into it. However, the ice didn’t melt fast so the fine delicate mixture of wood alcohol and GMO corn syrup and red dye #9 were distinct and tasty.
And before I knew it, it was dark. The chairs were stacked, the doors locked, and I left to walk back on the beach, the small path beside the dune back to my quiet hotel. Off out in the inky ocean were the small constellations, the stars of the sea, commercial fishers and trawlers where the brothers of bartenders worked, the super tankers and shipping container vessels, and as the wind died down I imagined that I had the faint ordure of chickens from all those chicken houses where lights still burned and in so many rows birds confused and doped up on Blue Crystal Meth pooped out eggs and grew wondrous breasts and thighs.
You could work in the chicken houses picking up dead hens and blasting Metalica. You could work out there pulling fish from the ocean and sorting through them for eatable parts. Or you could work here and enjoy that moment before it all shuts down, when you can be alone with your thoughts and the sounds of the waves and think back to summer, a now distant memory.