July 23, 2005

The slick of sunscreen and the smack of a baseball into that tan boy's glove, and then the thud as it falls into the sand. My freckled skin glistens in the sun, tiny beads of sweat resting on my arms. The Long Island Sound rolls over itself, tiny little waves, seagull feathers, bits of kelp.

Kat puts a seashell on my knee and it sits in quiet perfection, swirling down to a point. I pass the shell on to Ollie, who giggles and puts it in her ear. She knows better, I think. Ollie has this fascination with putting things in her ears. Ollie is three, and drives us crazy in a really great way.

I take the shell from Ollie's ear and chuck it into the water, narrowly missing a young couple, knee deep in waves and smooching. Ick, Ollie says.

Old men sit on the rocks with long fishing poles. I don't know what they think they're going to catch. The only fish they're likely to catch is a dead one.

Kat, Ollie, and I are the only white people on the beach. Everyone else is black or Hispanic. I feel a little out of place in my one-piece bathing suit, zinc on my nose, skin starting to burn already. The three of us are pale, Irish, awkward-looking. Everyone else here is dark and beautiful, skinny in their bikinis. Hip-hop blares from their stereos. We have no stereo.

We do have a really great beach blanket, though. It is orange and yellow and fits all of us, even when we are lying down. And we've got sunscreen. And blueberries. And Ollie's got water wings, which she refuses to take off. But we've got no music, only everybody else's.

There's a bunch of old ladies playing soccer, or something kind of like soccer. They're all pear shaped, with big hips and breasts and fat knees. One of them rolls the ball at the rest and they all scream and laugh and holler in Spanish. And everyone forgets the ball. And then one of the old ladies remembers it and it starts all over again.

"I wanna go in the water," Ollie whines.

Kat lies back on the blanket, pretending to suntan. "Then go," she says.

"I'll drown."

"You're not gonna drown."

"But it's the ocean. It's deep."

"Kat," I say, "go with her."

Kat pouts but gets up, dragging Ollie with her. They march down to the water, Ollie yelling "Too fast! Too fast" while Kat pretends not to notice.

I start to bite my fingernails and they taste like salt. I feel inundated with sun, drowning in light. It gets into my bones and under my eyelids. I stand up, stretch, and pop a few blueberries into my mouth. We've got all day, I think. No need to do anything too fast.

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