Letting Life Lead
The group milled along the shore as the tide rolled in and a brisk wind blew sand across the sea grass. Gracie had taken her time catching up to enjoy the plants along the trail. Sometimes Rick lagged behind too for chit chat, but today he — full of a man’s coiled energy — had stayed ahead.
“Hey, Gracie. You okay?” the guide and one other asked.
“It’s about time, grandma,” two young women and their male companion sniggered.
Seagulls screed. Gracie dropped her heavy pack and stretched. It wasn’t that she couldn’t handle the hike, she just preferred to enjoy the sights and not expend energy rushing to get from point A to point B unless it was necessary. The ocean wasn’t going anywhere and the sun hadn’t even kissed the horizon yet. The water would be cold this time of year.
Gracie stripped, dropping her clothes into a haphazard pile.
“Whoa, I don’t think you should do that…” the guide began.
“What you going to do, Bill? Arrest me? If the paramedics need to be called, just tell them I’m senile and you’re off the hook.”
Gracie took an unnecessary route through the three that had tried to mock her age. They contorted and moved out of the way. She smirked and yelled, “Watch yourself. Saggy boobs, stretch marks, and cheese thighs coming through.”
Annoyed whispers as well as lighthearted laughter followed her to the wet sand. The cold took her breath away when she dove into the frigid waves. By the time she had come up, Rick and a few others had joined in the skinnydipping.
As sunset approached and camp was set, Gracie left them to walk ahead along a planned route with a minor detour to a path beside a scenic overlook. Sunset burst through the blue. Crows diving in the orange sky were replaced by bat silhouettes. Gracie lit the remnants of a joint and puffed leisurely.
“Hey.” Rick stood six inches beside her and took his turn at herbal therapy. “Where’d you go last night?”
“Nowhere. Thought I’d give you an out. No need to pretend it was more than it was.”
“One and done, huh?”
Gracie shrugged and inhaled, letting the words waft on the smoke. “You’ve got a good slow jam rhythm for a millenial. David — my asshole late husband — made love like a twerking jackrabbit.”
Rick coughed on the exhale. “Low bar, but I’m taking that as a compliment.”
“What’re you twenty-four?”
They passed back and forth not acknowledging the occasional bat that dove between them.
“Thirty-five,” Rick zipped his coat against the chill. “I got a kid. He’s twenty now.”
“Damn. You idiot.”
Rick shrugged. “Didn’t know it was loaded and she hadn’t even had a period yet. Late bloomer.”
“I got four kids. About the age yours is. I wasn’t much younger than you are now. We had trouble for years then two sets of twins. You believe that?”
“Sucks for you.”
They laughed and sniggered about nothing and counted a flock alighting on a tree.
“So why this?”
“You mean why aren’t I knitting in my rocker?” Gracie took off her shoes. “Menopause.”
“I married young because that’s what I was supposed to do. I had kids, accepted my fate of having to slog laundry forever until I died. Then, bam, hot flashes. Hey, you know that story about Sisyphus? The guy with the rock? See, no, it’s not a rock, it’s all the domestic bullshit. Sisyphus is really a woman. Some pretentious assholes stole that story from some ancient sisters. It’s supposed to be a warning to women about the work husbands bring. You men — big headaches.”
“Anyway, they gave me these hormones, and I feel fucking fantastic. It’s like a dim lightbulb’s been changed. Everything’s in technicolor surround sound. I sold my house, scattered David’s ashes along the 495, and decided long walks were cheaper than therapists.” Gracie sunk her arm into her bag. “Snack?”
“Fuck, I’m high.” Rick took the offered power bar and finished in two bites. “So, just how good was my slow jam?”
“Want to help me tick off a box on my list.” Gracie opened her arms wide. “How about right here.”
“On the edge of a cliff?”
“Hardly a drop off.”
“They might come looking and get an eye full.”
“Their screams? Night music. Grandma my ass.”
They kissed, tumbling in the weeds. It wasn’t more than it was, but it was more than they’d expected.
writing, traveling, and tap dancing around town.
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