I’m sitting on the beach, it’s thirty-eight degrees outside. It’s colder than a witch’s sports bra. I am sipping a beer with my wife, eating Chili Cheese Fritos directly from the bag.
As a teenager, I used to sit on this beach a lot. When I needed to think, I would sit alone, long past sunset, until I would get so cold I was no longer able to biologically have children.
Sometimes I would sit for hours after the sky went dark and stare at an endless Gulf of Mexico. The sound of wind and water does things to me.
One night, I was on the beach in the dark. I was sixteen, and I was sad because of something that truly doesn’t matter now—though, back then it felt like the end of the world.
I felt overlooked by the universe, unexceptional, and unloved. They were feelings I couldn’t shake.
I was wondering why people act ugly toward each other. I was wondering if anything existed in the distance
besides waves and foam.
That’s when I saw two shapes approaching.
Two elderly women were walking the shore, I could hear them laughing. They wore heavy jackets, wool caps, and carried backpacks. They were wiry, and athletic.
One woman was Puerto Rican, with white hair and a dark complexion. The other was from Australia. I will never forget them.
The women said they were traveling the world together on a shoestring budget. They had already visited four continents, walked hundreds of miles on foot, and relied on the kindness of strangers.
They had been sleeping in tents, riding in cabs, living out of backpacks, frequenting motels and hostels, and eating like royalty.
Then, both women sat next to me in the sand. One woman removed a hip flask. She asked if I wanted a sip.
“No thanks,” I said.