“A Day at the Beach”
In conversations, I cling onto every word, so that I won’t be caught in my inattentiveness. Sometimes though, what I hear sounds like Greek.
The new boyfriend is really nice. I met him four months ago on an online dating site, and four dates into the game, on a rainy night, he said he wanted to be exclusive and date just me. We’re moving steadily and slowly toward each other.
He’s such a nice guy. He holds doors open, he is patient, he waits for me when I’m late. He is a music teacher, who comes from an ordinary all-American family.
On Sunday, we went to the beach. At times when he looks at me and talks, I feel the old anxiety return, the fear that I will not be able to understand what he says. I take the meds so I can stay focused, not only on the job, but on dates, too.
On the subway, on the long ride to the beach, he talked about his music, his students, his teaching, his family, and I clung onto each word and its meaning as he spoke. Sometimes, though, when I am tired, what comes out of his mouth is like Greek. I hope that he will not see through me, that he won’t catch me in my inattentiveness. I must focus so much on his words because he can sense my nervousness. He’s not sure why I look so confused and pained.
The beach and boardwalk were perfect for a lazy Sunday. I had a million things to do and once again apologized for running late. This is a running theme: “Sorry, I’ll be there at 12,” “Sorry, the trains are running late.” (I joke to my friend, a fellow Catholic, that I feel like I am going to confession every day, or maybe the litany of “I’m sorries” started with becoming a Catholic. Not sure, it’s the same chicken and egg question.)
On the beach, we set up camp away from the crowds. The waves were powerful like a washing machine on spin cycle. The boyfriend looked a bit horrified at the thought of taking the plunge. Who knows what is under the waves? I feel so happy and comfortable in the water, weaving through the waves. When I dive under a wave there is silence, and I love the silence.
The boyfriend watched from the sand, later telling me that I was brave to venture out on my own. Funny, I don’t feel very brave. But in the water, I feel powerful, because it is something I can do as the others watch frightened, mystified, and a bit envious.
On Saturday, Alex, the student I’ve been working with for three months, had his last class. He can now kick across 20 yards. In the beginning we were on the kiddie side, but in the end, he still stopped breathless and frustrated. “How come it’s so easy for you?” he asked me. Well in his 30s, there’s so much he can do – successful banker with a wife and daughter – but he struggles to swim a single lap.
“It’s an accomplishment, think about the first day…” I said. He nodded; he wanted to believe me but he couldn’t. I wanted to tell him that even though I could swim like a mermaid, there were a ton of other things that I couldn’t do. But I could relate to the envy. We are all human.