Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lonely Day: Seagrove Beach 1987

This was when I returned to the Florida panhandle for the last time. I had been back and forth to that place--South Walton County, Grayton Beach, Seagrove, Seaside, Gulf Trace, you name it--since the late summer of 1985. In that short span, I'd come to Grayton from Los Angeles, then left when things closed up for the winter, then returned in the spring instead of going to Oregon like I'd planned, then left in the fall to attend the Iowa Writers Workshop, then came back after quitting the Iowa Writers Workshop to live with teresa on the beach, then left for Seattle after quitting Teresa on the beach, then returned late summer because I could think of no where else to go.

When I came back that last time, I lived with Brad for a while. He had a place on 30-A, east of Seagrove Beach with an extra bedroom and I slept there while I looked for work. Brad, whom I had met through the job at the Paradise Cafe, was a nice guy. Funny, smiling, good-hearted and generous (yes, sometimes to a fault). I always got the sense that, inside himself, there was something to be wary about--a mean streak or simmering violence--but I had no evidence of it and, compared to anyone else in my circle (including myself) he was as nice as they come. Anyway, Brad put me up until I found work and then I moved in with Dave--whom I did not know very well--in Seagrove and then I found new work as a painter in Seaside.

Though I lived with dave, he was rarely there and he lived upstairs while I occupied the downstairs and so I essentially lived alone. Most of my friends from a year or two ago had moved on--went back to Pensacola or lived in other areas of the county or coast and had other jobs in their lives. I had yet to meet Mike and Jimmy (who would become my friends for that time period) and sometimes the lonliness would get to me.

I had my car--the much maligned powder blue Maverick--and so I could get around when I wanted to. But my problem was, I had really nowhere especially to go.

Okay--cut to the chase:

So, I was out one day, being sad and lonely, and I decided to see who was around. Now, Brad was still around and Brad's love-in-his-life was Mary. I knew Mary, but had never known her all that well. But, I did know where she lived, which was in a trailer off one of the many red dirt roads between 30-A and the bay (Choctawhatchee Bay). My understanding was that Brad and Mary had a sometimes volatile relationship (which must be where I got the sense that Brad could have something explosive within him--despite the lack of any empirical evidence; that and also the fact that his father was in prison). Anyway, I'm getting off track. Brad and Mary were sweet lovers.

So, I pulled my ugly car up into the grass at Mary's trailer, saw that her car was there. Brad's car was there. In those days, not all that many people lived in South Walton County. (Nowadays it's packed with humanoids.) You knew people by their vehicles. So, I knew they were there.

Now, I don't recall if I got out and knocked on the door, or if I just honked my horn. I do remember that I sat there in my car after trying to get them to come out. I don't know. I was bored. Lonely. I need to talk to someone, I guess. But I just sat there after a number of tries to see them. Either they weren't home or--more likely, more obviously--they wanted to be alone.

So, I continued to sit there in my car, looking out the windshield at the trailer. Waiting for what? I'm not sure, really. I mean, by now it was obvious even to me that they didn't want to come out. That they hoped I'd just leave. I knew this. Yet, I couldn't quite bring myself to put it in reverse and drive off. Again, I was lonely. So, there I sat. Doing nada. Looking. And that's when I saw the back curtain move.

Oh, it's pretty terrible--on a very small scale--but i was glad to see that curtain move.

I knew I was intruding. But I saw the curtain and then I saw Brad's face, Mary's eyes. They were checking to see if I had gone. But, like a troll, I was still there. And they knew that I had seen them.

So what could they do? They were nice people. Polite Southerners. So, they came out the door and invited me to talk to them. Or, maybe I waved to them and got out of my car. Either way, I got out and we chatted. I don't know if they invited me inside or what--can't recall. But we had a nice chat as people down there were wont to do. And then I left.

And that was it. I felt kind of badly--interrupting them, catching them hiding from me, or forcing them to acknowledge me. I was self-aware of what i was doing as I sat in my car, aware of what i had done, yet I couldn't bring myself to extricate myself from it. I was bad. Though it was a small thing. But in knowing this small thing, it let me know how pitiful I was becoming. I was the unwanted pest, it said. Pariah. Though, really, I don't think I was a pest. I doubt Brad and Mary saw me that way--they just wanted to be alone. Still, it was my self-knowledge while I sat there that gets to me--just a little bit. I laugh at it, too. No, not a pariah. Maybe not even a pest. Except maybe a little bit on that lonely day.