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A Day at the Beach: What Happens When Nobody Knows I’m Writing This About Them

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1. Group of six teenage girls sitting in a perfect circle in their bathing suits. Some of them are lying on their stomach and the others are sitting cross-legged Indian-style, all staring into the core of the circle at each other. One of them screams with laughter, “You did not!”

2. Guy and girl walking onto the beach. She is wearing an expensive floral print dress. She doesn’t belong on this beach. He does, in his ripped khaki shorts and a white tee. They aren’t talking, but he looks happy to be here, walking ahead of her. The girl clumps her wedge sandals through the sand, and I can’t see her eyes behind those sunglasses, but her lips are parted, and she looks like she could explode on him at any moment for bringing her here.

3. Couple sitting in the sand further in front of me, side by side. Hips touching. He is staring out at Lake Michigan, and while he is telling her a story that makes him smile a lot, she tilts her head in his direction. Her knees are bent, and her forearms rest over those kneecaps. I don’t think they are girlfriend and boyfriend. More like best friends. Although I can tell from the way she keeps leaning her chin on one of her arms that is resting on her knee, she probably wants to know if he’ll ever be in love. With her.

4. “I told him not to do that! Yeah! That’s exactly what I said. I swear to god, he NEVER listens to me, Sarah. I don’t know. No. I really don’t know where he was last night. What? No, what’d you say before that? Oh, yeah, I know. No, I haven’t tried that. We trust each other, ya know? Sarah. I can’t go through his phone. He always has it. No. What if he catches me?”—conversation of a girl in her twenties pacing behind me on her phone.

5. Woman in her thirties reading her magazine. She’s wearing sunglasses. She’s holding up the magazine over her face, but below her eye level. She’s staring at some guy with another girl in the water waist high. I wonder if he knows she’s even at the same beach watching him with another woman have the time of his life without her.

6. Two young teenagers out in Lake Michigan. The water just above their thighs. The girl is standing in her bikini, her arms crossed, shy as any young girl in front of her first boyfriend. He is trying to pull on her arm to come out further into the water. All I can hear from the echo and her laughter is, “No! No! It’s too cold!”

7. A woman, around twenty-three or so, has a dog smaller than a cat. She picks up a little bit of sand in her hand, gently throws it over her dog’s head so he can chase after it like a real ball. The dog runs after it, then comes back for more. She is by herself. She looks bored. A little lonely. She keeps checking her phone every minute or two.

8. I just saw this guy out of the corner of my eye. He has one of those metal detectors and those headphones over his ears. He is looking for something. Maybe just coins. I don’t think he’s washed his hair in two weeks. It’s gray and looks as if it belongs to a rat with long strands of ash. What does it feel like to walk around with one of those metal detectors? Everyone he walks in front of, they just stare at him. Maybe he’s famous for something and no one else knows. (Desiree Cole)

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