by Avery Markle
Not one star shines above us as the city’s lights illuminate every inch of the sky. I’ve seen light pollution before, but nothing this serious. The air seems hazy, and it’s so thick that I can’t even locate where the moon hides.
Eddie and I are walking down Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica at just about three in the morning. This is something I’d always thought about – being in California – and to actually be living this moment was enough for me to fall in love with life right there. Here in L.A, rumor has it summer is everlasting. And my love for summer has stayed just the same.
I’d only met this boy a mere six hours ago, and half of that time was spent staring at him from across a sea of people swaying to the same music we all loved. So it’s more like I’ve only known him for a few hours, and we haven’t gotten past the feel of being strangers yet.
We’re walking side by side, having just hopped out of an uber that made the 30 minute drive from the Hollywood Bowl to here– the Santa Monica Pier. Eddie wears a soft smile as we pass strangers every now and then who stare at us funny. I don’t know if it’s because they question our motives, or if it’s because we’re both a little tipsy, but either way I couldn’t care less. The alcohol warms me as we venture toward the water.
“What’s been your favorite show of theirs that you’ve been to?” Eddie asks me, avoiding a woman sailing by on a bicycle.
I shake my head and sigh. “Jeez, that’s a tough question.”
Our favorite band had just finished their final tour of the year here in Los Angeles. I’d been seeing this band every year since I was seventeen and was practically raised by their music. They began as a bar band that I stumbled upon one night in Boston while hanging out with some friends. I guess one could say I discovered them before they made it big, but I don’t like to brag about it. Ever since that night, though, I made it a point to see them perform every chance I could.
“Fine,” Eddie says at my lack of an answer, “then what’s one of your most memorable? Like, which show is one that you know you’ll never forget?”
I think for a second and then grin up at him. “Okay, okay, I think I got one.”
He shrugs and we stop walking. “Let’s hear it.”
“Alright, if I had to pick, then it’d be the very first night I saw them in Boston.” He watches me speak. “I really think the fact that I happened to find them in that tiny little bar means that it was meant to be.”
Eddie raises his eyebrows and we start walking again. “Okay, tell me more. What was it like?”
“Man, you’re just full of questions, aren’t you?”
He rolls his eyes. “I’m just trying to get to know you!”
I hold my hands up, smirking. “I know, I know, I’m joking. In all seriousness, Boston was memorable because that’s just where they got started, man! Nobody knew who they were and the fact that I was one of the first people to hear their music is something I’m forever proud of.”
Eddie nods. “That’s so sweet. That really must’ve meant a lot to them.”
“Oh my god, I bet,” I exclaim. “I went right up to those guys after their set and talked to them for forever. I’m sure they don’t even remember me now that they have millions of girls screaming their names, but I hope they’re doing fine.”
Eddie pats my shoulder and rests his hand there. “Well, you seem like a great girl, so I bet they do remember.”
My heart flutters and suddenly I can see every single star hidden underneath the haze of Los Angeles.
“Thank you, Eddie.” I reach for his hand and hold it in mine. “That means a lot coming from you.”
We stay like this for a few moments, hand in hand, strolling down the Santa Monica pier, slowly approaching the ocean. The waves are crashing against the beach and a few people are scattered up and down the shore, far enough away to feel like we have this moment to ourselves.
Suddenly, I pull away from him. “Dance with me.”
I dramatically start spinning down the pier, treating the ocean as my music. I close my eyes and feel the salty air caress my neck and face and get tangled in my hair. The water sings and Eddie joins me in the dance. We hop and skip down the pier, as if we’re the only two people in existence. A soft laugh escapes my lips as I think about how strange we must appear to anyone watching. Oh, but who cares? It’s all too familiar.
My feet sink into sand and I settle back down onto Earth as I stare out at the open sea before us.
“I can’t believe you live here,” I say, as Eddie appears beside me.
He grins down at me, and then at the water. “I can’t either.”
I sigh and lean into him. “Well, I’m gonna go in.”
Eddie almost gasps and stares at me. “June, it’s past three in the morning!”
“Oh, I know, and I don’t care. I’ve never been to California before.”
I wander away from him, hiking through the sand and discarded shells. He watches as I kick off my sandals, pull off my skirt to reveal shorts underneath, and step into the waves.
It’s dark and the chill of the water catches me off guard. I think about everything that could be lurking beneath the surface but quickly drown the thought once it becomes too nagging. Fear desires to hide experience, and I am not one to be kept from living.
Even with the tug of the waves and surrounding darkness, I steady myself and suddenly slip into tranquility with a confidence in knowing this is where I’m supposed to be. There are millions of seconds in a lifetime, and somehow I am certain that this moment is happening exactly as it should, when it should.
“Is it cold?” Eddie calls to me from the sand, and I glance back.
“Oh yeah, but it’s worth it.”
The waves silence everything around me, and I don’t notice Eddie approaching until he’s right by my side. Water that splashes my thighs only reaches his knees and I gaze up at him in the greenish tint of the early morning, hoping he appreciates this as much as I. He takes in the vast ocean before us.
I focus on the corners of his mouth; how they’re permanently curved up, painting the image of a consistently content man lost in the chaos of the city of angels. His dark eyes are wide and forever searching for only he-knows-what. Maybe inside he’s lost, but you’d never know from the way he flaunts a confidence so loud that the Hollywood stars of the Hills appear as hazy as the L.A night sky.
Eddie doesn’t realize I’m staring until I reach for his hand. He looks down at me and his grin widens.
“Isn’t it gorgeous?” I ask, studying his face.
He squeezes my hand and glances out at the navy waves. “Yeah, it’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.”
I ready myself for the blow as one of the waves comes quick and fast. It reaches my chest and the chill shocks me to my bones. Eddie laughs as I scream, and without a second to change my mind I dive underneath the water.
I am surrounded by an uncertain darkness that I am nothing to. The ocean is vast and I’m the smallest stranger beneath its surface. I’ve always felt connected to this other world, ever since I was really small and couldn’t swim without the help of my father. Back in Massachusetts every summer was spent at the Cape in my Grandfather’s beach house. He hates the sand, so I always questioned why he had a home there in the first place. I spent my adolescent summers becoming familiar with the sea and open sky that I so desperately adored. I keep bottles of seashells and translucent stones on my bookcase and photographs of summer hanging on my walls. I believe myself to be the ocean’s dearest friend. However, as I glide through this new side of the sea, I am left to wonder if she feels the same towards me. It’s all the same water, it all connects, yet I feel as if I need to relearn the ocean’s name.
I resurface, swallowing air through salty lips. I wipe my eyes and smooth back the hair from my face.
“You’re crazy,” I hear Eddie call from behind, and I turn to him.
I’m a ways away, and I don’t realize how far I had actually swum. I can see all down the beach and the homes in the hills overlooking the city. Eddie resembles a mere shadow in the darkness and the lights try their best to illuminate him from behind. I can’t touch the ocean floor as I float in its waters.
It feels like a different world in California, and I feel like a different woman. I don’t recognize myself from yesterday– the girl who flew across the country alone to see her favorite band play at the Hollywood Bowl. I suddenly don’t feel like June Carson. I don’t feel like anyone. I’d always dreamt of visiting this city and seeing everything there is to offer. Now that I’m here, I feel as though I could do anything. I suddenly remember that I never told anyone I wouldn’t be coming back home.
“Are you alright?” Eddie yells, his voice muffled by the crashing waves.
“Yeah, yeah!” I yell back. “I’m sorry.”
I begin swimming back toward him, letting the tide quicken my pace. I feel strange but alive. It’s nearly four in the morning and I’m thousands of miles from home in a city that I have yet to discover.
As I’m nearing Eddie, I can feel the ocean floor again and I convince myself that everything’s okay.
He stands in the water, smiling down at me. “You worried me for a second!”
I stand and the air is suddenly cooler than I remember. “Oh my god, I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize I swam so far out.”
“Hey, it’s all good! But you look cold. Let’s get out of the water and I’ll give you my sweatshirt.”
I smile softly and nod. “Okay.”
The two of us trudge through the waves and back onto land. I grab my skirt that I’d thrown aside and shake the sand off of it.
“Damn, this is so uncomfortable.” I laugh, trying to force my skirt on. It rolls and sticks to my legs still dripping with saltwater.
Eddie peels off his sweatshirt, handing it to me as I lose my fight with the skirt. “I wish I had a towel or something for you to use.”
“Ugh, it’s okay,” I say. “I’m just gonna try to dry off a little before I get dressed.”
For a few minutes I let the ocean breeze dry my skin. It’s cool and my soaking wet hair doesn’t help me in the slightest. Both Eddie and I stay silent and I study him as he goes to inspect the beach for shells and rocks.
His long, dark hair repeatedly falls into his eyes and he attempts to tuck it behind his ear each time. He has some kind of bracelet on his left wrist but I can’t make out what it is. I find Eddie attractive but I didn’t necessarily come out to California to find love. I came to find myself. If love happens to be a stop along the way, then I’m not complaining, but I know I need to make myself a priority in everything I do. However, I can sense myself slowly falling for him.
After a while my skin is dry and covered in goosebumps. I pull on my skirt and throw Eddie’s sweatshirt on. By this time he’s got a handful of seashells with no place to put them.
“Find anything good?” I ask as he makes his way back over to me.
He nods and digs through the pile in his hand. “Yeah, I love looking for seashells. I’ve always done this since I was a kid.”
“Oh, me too,” I say, studying some of his finds. “I’ve got jars of them back home.”
“Me too!” He laughs. “You should see how many I’ve got, it’s crazy. I even have books about them.”
My heart throbs for a second. Maybe falling in love out here isn’t that bad of an idea after all.
We’re sitting in the sand with our backs pressed up against the boardwalk. There’re piles of seashells surrounding us and the tide is rising. It’s after 4:00am and ordinary people are waking up for their ordinary jobs, for an ordinary salary, while Eddie and I haven’t even slept yet. Adrenaline is coursing through me but my mind is tired.
“It’s late,” I mumble, feeling the heaviness of sleep weigh down upon my eyes.
Eddie grunts, sort of laughing at my remark. “Time doesn’t exist here. Every day and every morning just melts into the next. You’ll learn that soon enough.”
I think about Massachusetts – how the time zone there is three hours ahead. If I were home right now, I’d most likely be just waking up. I ponder this for a moment, wondering how I’d gone my entire life not even questioning the odd existence of time.
“So how long have you lived out here?” I eventually ask Eddie, not wanting to turn my brain into any more mush than it already is.
“When I turned twenty I moved here with some friends, and we all pitched in to rent out this super tiny apartment up in Encino,” he says. “I had this dream of starting a band and releasing music and stuff but I honestly just never got around to it.”
I stare at him and, noticing my eyes, he stares back. “You never got around to it? Why not?”
Eddie shrugs defeatedly. “Man, I don’t even know. I was constantly told by everyone that it wasn’t realistic and that I should focus on something else. But the whole reason I moved out here was to start a career in music.”
I turn back to face the ocean. “Well, it’s never too late to start.”
There’s silence between us, and a runner passes by at the shoreline.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“I think you should go for it.” I play with a loose thread on my skirt. “There’s absolutely no reason not to.
“Why do you say that?” he asks, watching me twirl the thread around my fingers.
I laugh. “Because life isn’t just about waiting and wishing and regretting. You have all the power in the world to go after things you’ve always wanted to go after, but to me it seems like you kind of just gave up because of other people’s opinions, people who shouldn’t even matter.”
Eddie breathes and tilts his head back to watch the sky. “I know.”
“Trust me, I almost didn’t come out here to California, but something kept telling me to do it anyway.” I dig my feet into the sand. “And I think the fact that we both desire something so greatly must mean something in the long run.”
“You’re right, June. I think now I’m just a little lost. I don’t even know where to start.”
I sigh and think about all the times I’ve ever felt lost, including tonight.
“Well, we both came here for a reason. Maybe we can help each other out.” I nudge his side with my elbow and he smiles at me.
“Maybe we can.”
Even with a lack of belonging in my heart, the cloudiness slowly begins to clear as I sit with a boy and an ocean who had been strangers only yesterday. According to Eddie, time doesn’t exist here in the world of California, and I silently pray that this moment doesn’t melt away like the rest.
“Does it make sense to be lost together for a little bit until we figure everything out?” I ask. “I could use the company while I’m out here.”
“Yeah, of course,” Eddie sighs, and he’s silent for a second. “You’re far from home.” I can tell he’s trying his best to imagine Massachusetts. There’s a whole world out there, but home feels the farthest.
I sigh. “Yeah, but I don’t even know if I could call it home anymore. It’s just a memory now.”
“You don’t wanna go back, do you?”
I turn to Eddie and he’s longingly staring into the ocean. It’s waving at him.
He lets out a short laugh. “We’re a lot alike then.”
I continue to study him. The ocean air is curling his hair at the ends and the bandana he had been wearing at the concert is now poking out of a pocket on his jeans. His shoes are tossed to the right of him, sand slowly pulling them down into the earth along with my own. I think about all the places those shoes must’ve taken him.
“I’ve already decided I’m not going back.”