I take a deep Pacific breath. It is mid afternoon and chilly. I can feel the warm sand radiating through the blanket I’m sitting on. The sand was warmed by the stubborn sun, pushing through the layer of fog stretched for miles along the coast. I am eating blackberries and dark chocolate thinking about the man in the bar at lunch time. I’m watching my friend, she is far away and talking to someone on her phone. She wades in and out of the water. She walks one direction for a while and then she turns and walks the other. I’ve been getting on her nerves for days.
But then we went to that bar for lunch and we both got to remember how fiercely I love her. How fiercely I love to protect her. It is what our friendship is founded upon. My ferocity and overprotection. This was, for a long time, what many of my relationships was founded upon. Then I learned it is unhealthy to feel and react this way. It is unhealthy unless there is a true and real menace.
I look out at the ocean beyond my friend. The slate-colored water rolls in and out. I look down the beach and I see the yellow and orange cliffs run its length and fade into the fog. The redwoods sitting on top of the cliffs are so tall. Tall and enormous. Immovable objects.
About that bar at lunch:
When the old bartender at the bar asks us what we want to drink my friend responds, “Do you have any IPAs?” and I know we are in trouble. He pauses and gives us a slight grimace, “We have some-uh that Sierra Nevada.”
My friend says yes to the Sierra Nevada. Trouble. I order a Miller Lite and chat with the bartender like he is serving me a beer in a little place outside city limits in the middle of nowhere, WV. Then he offers us some free smoked fish. I think it was tuna. I don’t remember. I do remember that we took some and ate it. I remember it was delicious.
Waiting on the chicken wings we ordered to be microwaved by the lady working the kitchen, two men at the end of the bar begin talking about fishing.
They are talking about being in a boat.
And then they are talking about taking a woman out in the boat.
Taking a woman out in the boat and teaming up.
Taking a woman out in the boat and teaming up and how the younger of the two men had left him hanging last time.
A real and true menace.
Having pounded my Miller Lite, I ask my friend, “Do you know how to properly use a beer bottle in a bar fight?” I ask her this loudly. It is a proclamation.
“I don’t think so.” She says back to me.
I give her a wry grin and proceed. I grab my bottle by its neck and stick my thumb in its top gripping my fist around the thing. “Just like this, your thumb captures the air inside the bottle. When the bottle impacts someone’s head, it does way more damage.”
The older of the two men at the end of the bar takes this as an invitation. “I don’t like all these tough women. Women should wear skirts, look pretty. Women shouldn’t be tough.”
“Shut the fuck up,” the bartender says just like how a teacher might say, “Students, sharpen your pencils.”
I put some cash on the bar and I stand up. My friend abandons her beer there, she gives it to the discretion gods as we walk out of that dark place and into the hazy sky of Northern California. Then I drive us to Gold Bluffs Beach and I get a blanket and some chocolate and berries and we sit for a while on the blanket, trying to be safe. And then we do feel safe. We feel safe to get up and walk around on the pebble-littered sand. We feel safe to call our humans and talk about what happened. The Pacific gave it to us, the safety. The Pacific and the Redwoods behind us and those perfect sandy, golden cliffs.