I went for the fish.
Sitting alone in this restaurant (where I would spend $35 without regret on a bowl of ciopinno, a loaf of sourdough bread (on which I only nibbled) and a bottle of Perrier), I felt aware of my shifting demographic. I read a novel on my Kindle as the 40-something waitress kept bringing me things. I used my iPhone to take a photo of my food, which I posted to my Facebook page. Later, I used the phone to calculate the waitress's tip. I walked away from the restaurant, my leather boots feeling tighter around my calves. I'd spent the weekend celebrating Amy's 30th birthday in a rented, luxurious vacation house, the out-of-state guest list comprised of those who could afford to be there.
Hours later, on my second flight, I ate the sandwich for dinner. It tasted better than expected.
Two weekends, two different planets: Joshua Tree was Mars, and Moclips, along the Washington shore, was somewhere icier, Planet Big Chill. In Joshua Tree, our troop hiked Mount Ryan, a 3-mile out and back trail, a reasonable choice given Nico's age and the threatening clouds, which followed us up the hill, but delivered only the occasional snowflake.
In Moclips, we wore rubber boots onto the beach, snow crunching underfoot until, finally, our soles sank into the sand. The water spread out before us, a sheet of glass reflecting the clouds. It was difficult to discern where the sky ended and the earth began.
North of the I-10 East, past the sign that reads "Desert Cities," we were holed up in our tiny Western-themed bungalow called "The Cowboy Hideout." Above my bed, a guitar was mounted, which lit up from its soundhole. The sheets were covered in horses. Our Moclips Beach House could've slept 20, but we maxed out at a comfortable 10 on Saturday night. Both places featured warm meals and good friends, old and new.
Beach House: There was a hot tub. We ran from the house in our bathing suits, bracing ourselves against the cold, knit hats on heads, and jumped.
Joshua Tree: We gathered around our fire pit and Dicky read a Donald Barthelme story aloud. After he'd finished, he said, "We should burn it." It seemed like an appropriate sacrifice, but as the story blackened and shriveled in the fire, he said, "I wish we hadn't done that."
On the beach in Moclips, we found a dead seal defrosting in the sunshine. We weren't sure if it was a rock or an animal until we saw its gleaming teeth. It sunbathed on a pile of snow, the corpse green and red and stinking. Sean took a picture.
Joshua Tree: We listened to a country & western records at first. The "Cowboy Hideout" came with vinyl and a turntable. Later, we had an inspired, effusive Morrissey singalong: You had to sneak into my room / Just to read my diary / It was just to see, just to see / All the things you knew I'd written about you.
It was a lullaby. Not long after, we paired off, curled up and fell asleep.
Beach House: We listened to Beach House. Later, we danced on the kitchen table to something else. Sean told me this story: "I have a friend who, whenever she starts to feel depressed, reminds herself that she has a great ass. Think about it."
I have been thinking about it. A great ass, like most things, is fleeting. Despite all of my running in the snow, someday my own great ass will abandon me.
There was so much dancing in both places, but in Moclips I couldn't make it stop. There was something about the sensation of my feet sliding across that slick, hardwood floor. I was floating. To dance across it was an impulse beyond control. Walking was no longer an option -- I only danced from room to room. Our last night there, while my friends played in the hot tub, I stayed inside the dining room and danced alone. Amy's boyfriend, Ben, was my unwilling audience, sitting at the table, hunched over his laptop. Occasionally he glanced up at me, flailing across the room, and shook his head. I danced until I was so sweaty that I had to throw myself into the hot tub to cool down.
My favorite writer, Lorrie Moore, said it better than I ever could:
"I tell them dance begins when a moment of hurt combines with a moment of boredom. I tell them it's the body reaching, bringing air to itself. I tell them it's the heart's triumph, the victory speech of the feet, the refinement of animal lunge and flight, the purest metaphor of tribe and self. It's life flipping death the bird.
I make this stuff up."