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By the Sea

by Eileen Kos about a year ago in Climate
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silver linings

Simone glared at her date with annoyance. “ You do realize you're at the beach, right?”

Caleb took a long swallow from the insulated can in his hand. He immediately looked back to his laptop before replying: “Working at the beach is the best of both worlds! You should have brought a book with you, Simone. There's an entire genre designed around that activity. You’ve heard of beach reads, right?”

Exasperated, Simone flopped back into her seat, taking a magazine from her bag. “When you asked me to join you at the beach I was assuming a more personal type of event. More you pouring a glass of wine and rubbing the sunblock on my hot body and less of you doing whatever the hell you're doing over there on that computer.”

Caleb breathed a sigh. “And I envisioned a cooperative demure companion, one who would replenish my beverage supply, and assist me with an occasional spell check query. Guess we both lose. Hey, fetch me another cold one from the cooler, OK?”

Simone reached into the cooler and brought forth an icy beer making sure to let some of the ice from the cooler cling to the side of the can as she lowered it onto his midriff.

“Sorry” she said without meaning it.

“Since the pandemic hit the east coast, life, as she knew it, had ground to a halt. No more dance nights at the club, no more flirty office rendezvous over cubby tops, or even sweaty evenings at the gym.

Technically, the upside now was that you could work from anywhere. She had noticed the enticements promoted online by cash strapped cities and hotels meant to lure travelers with all of their newfound freedoms and steady paychecks to come and stay for a while. No mention was made of the quarantine period or the need to stay sequestered on the grounds of the hotel property. Those pursuing the nomadic life often found themselves chasing bandwidth in remote areas or bored poolside, unable to go past the hotel parking lot. There was no getting away from this pandemic. A quarantine in paradise is still a quarantine.

Her attention drifted to the masses of people sharing the beach. These people, like Caleb, seemed oblivious to the disappearing line between work and play. In fact, with their eyes glued to their phones and computers, they seemed oblivious to anything going on in the world.

Simone pulled herself away from her reverie and switched her attention to the view. She spied a sailboat moored out on the horizon. She’d noticed it earlier, cruising back and forth but always remaining within range of the beach. The mainsail was distinctive with its indigo sail and in the late afternoon sun, its black hull shimmered in the silvery water. “Now that’s the life.” she thought.

Simone had moved to the city to feel more connected to the world. With its noise and vibrancy, the city appeared to have a hard-hitting realness that was far different than the window pane world she’d grown up in.

Now, after having experienced city life she recognized where the true detachment was. Alienation from all that mattered in life was what had become her experience and she felt a lingering sadness and desire to return to what was important. She longed for herb gardens in kitchen window boxes with the faint scent of basil or lavender seeping into the room.

She doubted that any of her city friends made the connection between their designer burgers and the animals she and her family once bred for those meals these folks now enjoyed.

She remembered her last evening out, just before the pandemic when she found herself gazing over to the table of beautiful young women nearby. Each was riveted to her own phone oblivious of the “friends” nearby. She remembered wondering if they were texting each other.

She stood and stretched. “Caleb, I guess I’ll take a walk down to the jetty. Would you like to join me?” She asked

“No, you go ahead,” he said. “I’ve got another hour of work on this document so that it’s ready for Monday.”

Simone grabbed her towel and wasn’t careful about the sand she kicked his way. “Ok. I'll meet you back at the hotel. “

“Yes, Sure! he said, without looking up from his shaded screen. “Later!”

Simone wandered along finding the wooden path that had been erected after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the shoreline. She’d not walked the path since the storm and was eager to see the improvements that had occurred since the reconstruction efforts were completed.

The view of the sea was magnificent and she, once again, noticed the boat on the horizon. The boat, which had been motionless all day, looked as though it were following her along the shoreline. “Nah”, she told herself. It's just a case of Linear Perspective she thought. Like Mona Lisa’s eyes and nothing more.

“Well, hey sailor,” she said grinning to herself as she watched the vessel keep pace with her.

“I’ll bet YOU don’t leave your bikini-clad girlfriend lying bored on the beach while you do your sailing stuff!”.

She continued walking. She noticed that the area of sand to her left had been roped off and now displayed a sign identifying it as a tern nesting area. “Well, that’s cool,” she thought. “The terns are back and the population is growing!”

The coastal ecosystem, like so many places on the planet, had been so ravaged by the growing number of storms. As each giant wave hit the shore, churning up debris and wastewater into a bubbling wave of poison, destroying all in its path. Both the terns and the humans who once populated the beaches and houses along the coast suffered as a result. Shaking her head she wondered. “How could anybody deny climate change when confronted with this reality? Heck, she thought, some say even the pandemic was climate-related. Despite all of the warnings of climate doom, repeated over and over since her childhood she discovered that humans did not learn. They adjusted as wild animals mingled with human populations unleashing unknown and undiscovered pathogens." She looked back at her path and noticed the overflowing trash containers and debris left behind by unthinking beach goers.

She thought of what her Dad would have said if he were here to see her dismay today.

“Simone, it’s fine to notice these things,” he would say. "But now that you have witnessed it first hand, what will you do about it?”

“What indeed Dad?” she thought.

She remembered reading of a young man who had discovered how to remove plastic from the oceans. Despite his efforts, there was far more work to do.

The late afternoon sun was still high overhead and she felt the salty dryness of her lips and tongue. “Water, "she thought. I have to find some soon.” She’d looked back and noticed that she traversed the length of 3 beaches and decided it was a good time for a break. She wondered if Caleb knew she was still walking.

In the distance, she saw the bathhouse. "They must have a water fountain”, she said aloud, regretting, now, that she had left her handbag with Caleb. She could definitely use a caffeine pick me up. Strolling up the steps of the bathhouse she looked for a water fountain and upom finding one, observed the sign posted above by the local Department of Health:

“This water fountain is closed until further notice.”

.

She leaned up against the wall and groaned.

A tall brown-skinned woman approached her and smiled. She was dressed in a green and black bikini top and on her bottom a wetsuit with its neoprene arms carelessly flopping around her sides. She carried a container full of bottles and jars. “You can get a cup of water over at the food stand,” the woman suggested. “They won't charge you.”

Simone smiled. “Thanks! I’m parched. Don’t tell me that you also came to the beach to work?” She said observing the box of containers and the women's wetsuit.

There was a time, she imagined, when you would see families beachside building sandcastles, kids on boogie boards challenging the waves and flocks of gulls swooping in for the picnic scraps left by the departing guests.

The woman chuckled and answered. “Yup, guilty as charged.” She extended her hand. “My name is Britt. I do the water quality checks up and down the coast, which as you can imagine is hard to do unless you happen to be at the beach!”

“I’m impressed” Simone stated. “Now, that’s a great job! My name is Simone and I came here with my man to get some work done today but decided it was too fine a day to be stuck on a laptop. “

“So where is the dude? Did he get washed out to sea? Laughed Britt. “Doing work is not all that bad. in fact, I like to think I’m doing something useful. My exact title is climate scientist but most of what I do happens in the ocean.”

Simone laughed. “Now I am even more impressed. Good for you! I am thankful somebody is doing something about it. It all seems so futile sometimes.”

“Indifference is futile Simone. Anything else is progress.”

“Point taken. How do you get started on a career like that?" Simone asked.

“Basically you just dig in and start doing the work and you pick up the academic requirements along the way. You’ll need at least an MA and probably a Ph.D. to become an Oceanographer or Marine Biologist but there are countless other jobs. In fact, I am looking for someone who is interested in becoming qualified to gather samples and collate data. Are you interested?” Britt's eyes brightened as she considered Simone.

“Really?” Simone answered. “Funny, I was thinking of my Dad earlier today. Whenever we complained he’s always looked us dead in the eyes and ask what we intended to do about it. Wow, maybe this is what I was meant to do next. I hadn’t imagined it until my walk and meeting you today. Serendipity!” She said. “You know, I think I am interested. What do I need to do next?” Simone asked.

“Pack a bag, quit your job, say goodbye to your boyfriend, and meet me here tomorrow am. See that dark vessel out on the horizon? That’s the ‘Shore Surge’ and if you’re ready for it she can be your new home.”

Simone laughed and considered the impulsiveness of it all. Once upon a time, before the internet, you could drive away and reinvent yourself. It had always seemed an adventurous and romantic notion. She stepped forward and considered Caleb and his subservient view of her life options. Would she miss him? Would she miss her job? Perhaps for a little while.

“Deal,” she said. “ I’ll be here in the morning at 7:30 sharp.”

Climate

About the author

Eileen Kos

A New Englander loving my mixed up world of work, family and friends. I’m currently in the Medical field but I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life: waitress, armed security agent, teacher, airport ops agent and whatever else paid the bills.

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