The Place I’m At
By Adam Benedetto
“And what happened that you two broke up?” It was a simple question but in trying to relate the answer to Kate it would take long explanations of the people involved, their backgrounds, how they thought, what drove them – remembering or realizing what was driving me at the time. All of this was embarrassing because at the time it was happening I discarded all of those questions and simply moved into a new apartment. I had thought myself somewhat simple then, and now with Kate asking, I felt even more simple; shallow, may be the word.
We were eating fried potatoes sliced and heavily covered in Old Bay Seasoning, fried clams and ketchup. It was very good fried food and the yellow table pointed us to look out over south part of the cape where the flat beach led to a flat ocean. It was calm and tourists were walking into the kite shop, the fudge shop, the Indonesian apparel shop…
“Her parents were religious and it was too much for me.” It was my go to answer but really there was more to it. But why talk about it? Was there something to learn in thinking about it? Women love talking about this and I feel more like a man because it interests me less and less as I get older. I love human relationships, intimate ones, but something happened where I quit thinking about break ups too much… as if one break up is kind of like the next and if they aren’t funny, then they’re not worth talking about. They just make me sad. “Her parent’s were religious and it was too much for me,” I repeat and add, “That’s dating in the city.” Kate nods to that comment in a very knowing way.
Anyone who has tried to date in New York has this nod.
Kate’s dating a 21 year old soccer player now. He left to go back to college but she’s still keeping up with him. “In P-Town people just live as they live and don’t judge so I’m doing something I didn’t see myself ever doing. He and his friends are so smart. It’s really changed my view of that age.”
I think it’s awesome. In the city I talk to girl after girl dating a man 10 years their elder, 15, 20 years. I can only assume it’s money, power or status that makes them attractive. For me, and my friends who travel through life in the artist’s lifestyle, these are things that are fleeting. People have money and lose it, they live in status until they go somewhere no one knows them– or they age, they have power until it demands too much of them. For me it’s how creatively you live your life and young people have always been my heroes.
It’s a breath of fresh air to hear her talk about him, his young friends and their relationship. Why not? Why shouldn’t she?
I’m reserved in telling her this. The reason is actually funny to me. It’s the same reason I don’t feel like digging into my past relationship—It’s not worth talking about. I could go on at length about why dating someone younger is a great thing to do but at thirty-seven, when I make those arguments, I end up sounding like an old pervert. I’m not even dating anyone under 30… well, I do have this muse… She’s twenty-three but I don’t sleep with her—we just date. It’s a pretty funny situation but also too long to explain though Kate would probably appreciate it. Maybe I’ll tell her later.
Instead, I want to hear about the Bulgarian’s that work here during the summer season running peddy cabs. And Kate tells me all about them and the locals who are engaging in summer romances with them. Why do I like these stories of short lived romance so much?
And before long we are in an old boat house with Misha and Bones playing pool. There’s a grey cat sleeping who purrs when I pet him. The blue water outside–framed by raw wooden windows is steadfast and calm and Misha keeps saying, “It’s so beautiful,” like he’s a tourist but he takes photos so there’s a part of him that loves the light in a true way. It’s what keeps artists in these tourist places that are beautiful and simple; the places that depend upon light, the smell of salt, on the depth of stars, and the feeling that you can know everyone there in two days. Tourists come, spend a week here every year and feel completely a part of this place.
Misha’s got youthful energy and sings along with the music as he focuses on each shot, squares his toes to the table and hits the ball hard and with much confidence. It goes in… then the cue ball goes in the other corner pocket. “You lose,” Bone’s says with his old salt at sea voice.
The straight, male artists have their own pool and dinner club on Saturday nights. Normally Kate isn’t allowed but we play one game. A couple of other guys named after wild animals show up. They are wrinkled and relaxed which, after the heavy gay introduction to P-Town, is kind of a comforting atmosphere to be in. Bone’s and I squeak out a victory against Kate and Misha.
Kate want’s to see the light of sunset, or she wants me to see it, or both, so we get the car and drive out to the beach on the north side of the cape. The dunes are grand and actually look like the Indiana sand dunes along Lake Michigan but with no trash. “It looks just like Wisconsin,” I say and she says, “Everyplace I go to reminds me of this place. You can relate everyplace to Wisconsin but for me it’s Cape Cod that the rest of the world is like– but it’s like no other place in the world.”
“Actually it looks like Africa.”
She laughs, “Do you know what I mean?”
She takes a left to go to a “really unique beach,” we park and follow the blue runner down to the water. The sun is very low and red. Old people are packing up their folding chairs saying, “It was a good sunset.”
“Was? You’re leaving in the middle of it,” I say.
Christ, old people don’t even know how to relax and see a sun set.
Seals are swimming 10 meters out at sea. I’ve never seen them in the wild before and am thrilled. I’m also thrilled by the light of the aqua marine, the green clouds, the heavy red line of dusk, the small curve of Kate’s torso in my hand as we walk and bark at the seals. The seals are comforting. Their presence tells me that there is life, eternal life, under all of those hypnotizing waves. How I would like to extend this trip as far into the ocean as my swimming body could take me. I could follow the curve of the Earth forever.
Kate takes picture after picture and loads them up to Instagram. I’m a bit troubled by social media because sharing any of this in pictures or in words is a lie. But, others must be watching, following along with us. It’s almost like in The Never Ending Story, where the reader is with us as we walk down the beach, see seals, talk about sharks, run back to the parking lot and live breathless with our cuffed jeans wet to the knee.
Kate turns on the car, hot air comes out of the vents, the sun’s last reds are behind Kate as she says something to me, her eyes are crystalline blue and she is smiling, the first of the stars are coming out above like shy sparks of a distant fire.
At thirty-seven he was more in love with his body than he’d ever been. They say a man is in his physical prime at thirty-three but being youthful in a grand way with his personality may have carried over into his physiology. Or, maybe he was in a premature battle with death and sought to win the first battle by simply getting into shape after the prime of his life. In any case, the fact that he was stronger than he’d ever been gave him a sense of certainty he’d never before had. And the discipline with which he manged and regimented his exercise also made him feel capable and direct.
The ocean on the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard was rugged that afternoon. A storm had crossed Bermuda and moved straight north avoiding the East Coast directly but sending turbulence to its shores.
The waves were emerald green and climbed six or seven feet high like large sheets cutting straight across the horizon. The surfers were out there but they sat on their boards just behind the break. They were somewhat disappointed because with such an even break they had short opportunity to ride and plenty of opportunity to fall and end up toppled. So they were a decoration to the scene.
A beach down he could see kite surfers. They went where it was rocky along the shore and the waves were larger and more turbulent. Their waves could be irratic and it didn’t matter. Hitting a good crest they’d end up forty or fifty feet in the air.
“That’s a sport,” he said to himself as he entered the water, “but it takes too much stuff.”
The water, brought up from the south, was warm and in the late after noon the light was just starting to change into that calming kind of light. The undertow pulled at his feet as he walked out towards the breaking sea.
The boys he was with were still smoking weed out of a corn cob pipe behind a sandstone rock. They were giggling and waving. And there it was. His age. He had set to swimming and had orderly disrobed and walked in and now he was set to swim. He hadn’t thought to smoke weed and giggle. He wanted to put his body to work. It wanted to work. Even on vacation he would be timely and efficient. To him it was a tragic loss to consider. Teenagers waste it sleeping. Twenty-year-olds waste it doing drugs, at 30 it’s wasted preparing for death, in the late 30s we waste it lamenting our past youth. But now he would swim. Immediately his body fell into the rhythms he’d worked out in the pool. The waves were not to his timing though. He swallowed a mouth full of salt water and coughed. On shore, the boys were still smoking weed. They were in their own silent world now as the wind took their giggling and blew it down the beach.
Tolya was the youngest brother of some of his best restaurant patrons. He was a funny kid in his early twenties. Good looking but sometimes he’d just lie for no reason, and he liked to talk inappropriately loud so that even when he was being nice it seemed he was being condescending and arrogant. He was the one not invited to weddings, discussed in low tones amongst friends of the family, and was generally misunderstood by the local town folk of Marth’s Vinyard. He was a lot like someone you would really like if he’d just been beat up once for being a dick to the wrong person.
Adriano liked him. He knew that Tolya would get it eventually; why not like someone when they are who they want to be, before they are forced to be who they will become though the branding punishment of life. Tolya will tone it down eventually because he have to, but why not celebrate the irreverence in the short term?
In the mean time it was funny to hear Tolya tell people he was Russian, thank people at the top of his voice, rub everyone the wrong way in his effort to be charming. It was very funny and older people hated it. So in this respect Adriano was still inside on the joke enough to be young.
Where the waves broke the bottom of the ocean dropped a couple of feet and he could no longer touch the bottom before a wave hit. It made it more difficult to catch a wave just ride and ride it with his body. Now he’d have to swim with it as it swelled and hopefully he’d fall into the crest just right.
The waves pummeled Adriano, Tolya and Zach for more than an hour. The surfers caught waves occasionally but mostly they just looked on. As dusk developed the waves grew another food. The undertow was now a force to be considered. At one point it too Adriano and rolled him under water all the way past the break. When he came up gasping for breath and saw how far out he was he said, “What the fuck?!” But Tolya and Zach were too far away now to hear him. He started to swim in but was pulled back by the sea in a rotating motion. “So that’s how it is,” he said to himself. “I’ll just have to ride it out and cut over.” But it was less fun now. He wanted to roll onto his stomach and just swim but there was no way to tell how long the rip tide would move him in circles. Better to conserve energy just in case, he thought.
Far in the distant east a dark blue cloud had grown in the sky. It looked like night but in the west the sun still sat a good 20 degrees above the horizon. The sand dunes along the shore between Adriano and the storm were lit up bright white. He looked back to Tolya and Zach who were now back on the beach. They were smoking weed again but also pointing. A young couple had walked by them and she wiggled her butt knowing they were looking at her. Tolya bent over and slapped his knee. The waves drown out his voice. Something funny was being said. Zach bent over laughing. The girl turned and they both laughed harder. The boyfriend seemed to have a good sense of humor about it.
Adriano made another attempt to go back to shore but again his efforts showed only that he was trapped. “I’ve gone in a circle even though I’m swimming parallel to shore. Frustrating,” he said to himself.
But he had great confidence in his swimming and so he gave the thumbs up to the boys on shore who were looking for him to be in on their joke.
Now the girl was standing on a rock about 100 yards down the beach but Tolya, Zach and Adriano could all see her as she bent over straight legged with her voluptuous ass pointing at her boyfriend’s camera. The boys on shore spun around and held their heads in their hands. Tolya fell to his knees. The rocks, the girl, even her boyfriend looked beautiful in the amber light flooding in from the west.
Adriano looked along the breakwaters. The surfers had gone in. He looked for them along the shore but they were gone. Then he thought his eyes must have missed them in the sun. He looked again. No one. As he searched he saw something dark move in the water about 20 yards from him and to the west. A round head popped out. A seal. A bunch of them were swimming near him. At first he was delighted. What a great day at the beach, but then he saw Tolya and Zach standing very straight, looking very serious. Tolya had the corncob pipe in between his teeth like a wise old professor; he waved with both his arms, very slowly but emphatically. Zach was pointing at the seals. Adriano turned. The horizon was now as big as a mouth and the waves licked the beach like the tongues of a monster. There was no longer time to drift in circles. Face down he squared his shoulders to the shore and began to count the strokes between his breaths.