Summer of 2001- Cassidy
The frigidity of the ocean water startled me as it slapped up against my ankles. I should have known better than to comb the beach during high tide. Had Grandma taught me nothing? I would never find anything good out here tonight. My thoughts skipped and scattered, kind of like how my Pearl Jam CD was skipping in my headphones. Why was it that when I made an effort to clear my head, it felt most cluttered? I tossed away the broken clam shell I had just pulled out of the soggy muck and wiped my hands on my shorts. I clutched my Discman horizontally in front of me in an effort to stop the skipping. It’s just you and me, Eddie Vedder. You, me, and the sea.
It had been days since Emma and I had moved into our summer beach rental. My twenty-second birthday had been spent lugging boxes and suitcases into our tiny version of paradise. The Seaberry felt like more of a cabin than a beach house, really. The rustic maple woodwork that framed the walls and ceilings was welcoming. I sensed immediately the familiar vibe that this house had once been loved. For some, it might have seemed too small or too many miles from shore. But to two twentysomething girls straight out of undergrad, it signified nothing but a summer of possibility.
I lost my train of thought once again due to the breathtaking view before me. I stared out at the horizon and the open water. The ocean went on farther than I could imagine. Long, thin but puffy cumulus clouds stacked against each other in rows with tiny spaces in between, allowing the smallest bit of light to peek through. Aside from a few sailboats in the distance, the water was all I could see. The surfers and tourists were gone for the evening. Pearl Jam wasn’t skipping anymore. Eddie’s voice was raspy and intoxicating, and I breathed in the salt from the air.
I inhaled again, and the dampness of salt mixed with wind took my breath away. Sometimes it seemed almost impossibly easy for the sea to calm my anxieties.
As a hand on my shoulder jolted me back to reality, I stopped in my tracks and jumped at least two feet off the ground. I gasped, unable to catch my breath, as my heart raced and thudded. I lost my footing as I tried to get a look at this person who had invaded my calm beach moment. I tripped over an unexpected rock, almost dropping my Discman. I didn’t know this guy. But the hand, his hand, reached down and caught my device centimeters before it hit the water.
“I’m sorry! Can I help you?” I exploded. I stood up as fast as I could, brushing wet sand off my denim cutoffs.
“Calm down, there, killer!” He laughed.
“Calm down? You can’t just frolic around the beach, grabbing girls! You’re lucky I didn’t kick you in the…”
He looked amused. He stared at me for a beat. “Kick me in the what?”
I rolled my eyes, but he smiled back and handed me my Discman. I nodded my thanks and plugged my headphones back into the jack, trying with great effort to get my hands to stop shaking.
“What are you listening to?”
I chuckled as if to say “No way, not gonna happen” and turned to face the other direction, very much aware that we were the only two people on Long Sands Beach.
“Are you just going to walk away?”
I turned, paused, and checked him over. He didn’t appear to be a serial killer or a stalker, but what did those really look like? I wished I had a cell phone like Emma did. I would flip it open and call 911. But instead, I speedily studied his profile just in case I needed to give the police a description later on. I imagined myself sitting at the station like they did on TV, trying to give an estimate of his height, when all I could really tell at this moment was that he was taller than me (six foot one maybe?) with brown hair and dark eyes. They would want to know his weight, but I stank at that, and I was distracted by his dimples.
“I don’t talk to strangers,” I sassed, satisfied with my response. I continued strutting away from him and carefully placed my headphones over my ears.
He touched my shoulder again. I flicked his hand off. “Are you nuts?” It was more like a statement than a question.
He froze and held both hands in front of his face as if to say he surrendered. It wasn’t until now that I realized that whoever he was, he was actually kind of cute. I sighed and turned to face him. His lips curled into a smile, and he extended his hand to mine to shake it.
“Sean,” he stated. “Sean Anderson.”
I was hesitant to shake his hand, but when I did, I was surprised at how mine didn’t feel cold until now.
“Cassidy,” I replied as if I was repeating my McDonald’s order for the third time.
“Well, Cassidy.” He retrieved his hand from mine and put both of his hands in his pockets. “I was only trying to tell you that I think you have a beautiful voice.”
I blushed. I hadn’t realized that I had been singing out loud. I shook my head as if to say “Not going to happen” again and hung my headphones around my neck.
“Pearl Jam,” I mumbled. “I was listening to Pearl Jam.” I turned and continued walking. “It was nice to meet you, Sean.”
I didn’t turn back around even once. But as I changed course and cut through the center of the beach and up the steps to the parking lot, there was no doubt in my mind that he remained close behind.
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