By: Therese Masotta
There were bioluminescent algae everywhere, like a galaxy in the sand. Jack said it might just be the stars reflected in the water, except that they were greenish and sparse and hard to concentrate on. Could all of these tiny lights only be the reflection of the skies?
“No, no they have to be there! They’re real,” I told Jack. Jack believed me. But the thing is you would look at them and they would fade away, like the little gray dots that appear on a black and white grid. You never actually had enough time to tell if they were really there or if you were just imagining it.
“Wait a second. They’re reflections. Definitely.” Jack was sure this time. Pretty sure. Kind of sure. Not really sure at all.
“I don’t know, Jack,” I said, bending down to pick up some sand, trying to move them around. They slipped through my fingers and disappeared, like reflections. But still, I thought, there must be something there.
We were searching for something. Our own crazy story, here in the middle of the night with the unforgiving Atlantic staring at us with cataract eyes, unable to see anything beyond our misty shapes on the shore. But we were doing nothing.
When I think back on it, it seems we were trying too hard. We couldn’t find whatever we were looking for because we were spending too much time looking for it and not enough time believing it could exist.
We spent almost every summer of our lives on this beach, trekking from different parts of the east coast to get there in tandem with other family members. And we would share a week of high stress happiness in the same household in the same community for my whole twenty-three years of life, and even before then. But this year we were vacationing in the impending doom of losing our summers together.
As we stood sinking in the sand, the waves lightly weathering our feet, I thought about all the crazy stories of our parents and cousins when they were kids; sneaking out, swimming in the ocean at night, drinking too much. They loved sharing these times together while we drank wine and beer before dinner. Our family has inherited an ear-piercing cackle that is characteristically charming. It peppered the conversation as they reminisced.
Man, it sounded like a wild time being an 80’s child.
My cousin Jack and I ran out that evening after dinner and grabbed our bikes. We weren’t going to sleep because we didn’t want to. We couldn’t afford to. The great Something lay out there, and we needed to find it tonight. We needed to steal gin in my water bottle and run down to the beach where we needed to drink it even though we were actually tired and thinking about too many different things to speak.
We spent two hours down there in mostly silence. It took an hour alone to figure out what was going on with the algae, and even then we weren’t sure. We looked at the stars sober until two in the morning.
I felt disappointed in how well behaved I was being. What will Jack and I do years from now if we have kids and come to a new place at the beach? What will we have to tell? So far, all we’ve been is a weak reflection of our parents, mimicking their actions but not finding the Something they spoke so highly of. It must be out there. I wanted to have It. I wanted to share It with Jack so we could show everyone our beautiful It trophies when we got older.
The gin tasted terrible by itself.
I stood up, because we still weren’t speaking to each other, and brushed the sand off my legs. In one last attempt to be brash I took a swig of gin, that was far too large, and it splashed all over my face. That was it, I thought. The culmination of the evening had come and gone and I didn’t feel crazy or at risk. I didn’t feel the worth of a story.
All I wanted was our own unique crazy story. And all I was getting was laughter from Jack at my failure to drink properly. At this rate, we would never be like our parents.
Jack didn’t want to leave the beach that night but I knew it was time. It was far too late, and far too lame. He got stuck on the shoreline staring at the sand again. “Are you sure they’re not just reflections?” he asked.
It’s important to remember that we were only twenty and scared. And we had been trying to avoid something terribly important: ourselves. It wasn’t until later I realized our stories wouldn’t make any sense until they were done and part of the past. Right now? They were nothing more than developing and faint, easily mistaken for reflections of those who came before us. We stood on the edge of becoming ourselves that night, as we continue to do every night that we lay awake looking at the stars.
Therese Masotta is an ambitious twenty-something year old who is currently hiking the Appalachian Trail. She is the co-founder of The Slag Review. On the side, she is a comedic guitarist, cheap wine enthusiast, and ceaseless punster. Her work can also be found in The Slag Review and is forthcoming in Streetlight Press.