The Unreal Beach
At the end of August 1976 I came to Lincoln to be a counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind from Hawaii. This was the first time I lived away from familiar friends and family.
All new staff attended the orientation center. It was several weeks when 1 Wednesday the trainers announced we were going to the beach this Friday. “really? No kidding! … You have a beach near here?” I mused to myself I thought.
I found myself jumping up and down with joy clapping my hands. You could have heard a feather flutter to the tile floor.
“Of course we have beaches. They’re not just in Hawaii.” one of the students guffawed with a snort.
I absently twirled my waist-length black hair between my fingers. My shoulders drooped while I unsuccessfully tried to think of a response to the smart comment.
“You will really like it.” another staff or student said.
For the next two days my favorite day-dream was watching myself basking in fine sand, the consistancy of sifted flour, under my feet with beautiful salty waves around 80 degrees cacooning me.
Thursday afternoon during Braille Class I tossed ideas around in my head regarding lunch for tomorrow. Everyone was responsible for their own meal on the field trip. I yearned for something besides burgers, fried chicken, and Mexican readily available from many fast-food eateries. My Mom and Dad did all the cooking at home. Since, coming to Nebraska I’d eaten mostly oranges, apples, and food easily fixed in the microwave. I finally decided a plate lunch consisting of Ginger Chicken, Macaroni Salad, and pound cake for dessert sounded
scrumptious. My last class of the day was Cooking Connection. They took pity on me and helped me make enough for the eight members of our class. * * * The next day everyone got on the bus for the trip to Linoma Beach. It was a windy 72 degrees.
my fantastic beach excursion would be a reality was dampened by The cooler temperature.
Upon arrival we walked to the steps canes tapped and glided on the rough pavement. We began walking single file down the wooden stairs. The first 3 rungs were solid. I could hear some of the students yelling back to the instructors about defective planks. In a few minutes everyone was instructed to backtrack.
“This is good practice for all of you. You aren’t going to find ideal everywhere.” began Mr. Jones puffing out nasty smoke. “We are making a right turn , around the picnic area. Then turn left, don’t fall over the waist high wall.” Shivers crawled up my back. he seemed to be taunting us. His lighter flicked again. — Follow the winding ramp down to the sand.”
We raced down the ramp. Several individual’s canes caught in the handrail. “Matthew, Tony, Amber, and Jewel what’s wrong with you folks. Your canes should remain at ground level!” Mr. Jones shouted. I walked a few feet. I rocked the toes and heels of my shoes back and forth. They dug a deeper foot print in the cooling sand. The texture waffle cone crunched then evaporated leaving a dusty film under my weight. I set down my towel and took off my tennis shoes. The sun seemed warm enough on my skin to be around 80 degrees. The sand surface under my bare feet had some heat. I still didn’t hear waves moving or smell salt in the air.
I hoped the majority of our group would enter the water first and moved slightly off to the side .
“You go first we know how much you’ve looked forward to today.” several students prompted too enthusiastically.
I baby stepped into the water. My breath caught.
As I went in deeper, It felt cool and then cold and then colder. At first it gave me tremors in my legs, then shivers throughout my whole body. “This doesn’t feel like 80 degrees.” I grumbled. “The water bearly moves. It feels like a talking book record going over the same sentence over and over. It smells somewhere between garbage and chemicals. Most of all where is the soothing salty feel on my skin?” I hissed to nobody in ear shot I hoped.
To gain courage, I pictured dolphins swimming with me, frolicking at play. Squaring my shoulders, quickly waded into the coarse sand and water up to my waist. My naked tooties didn’t appreciate the tiny pebbles mixed with gritty textured sand. After a few deep breaths I jumped in face first. I stayed under the water blowing bubbles pushing hot tears back. When I stood up, a small gust of wind quickly cooled my neck and arms. Crying wasn’t an option unless I wanted to be teased unmercilessly. I wished I could transport myself back to my apartment. This wasn’t a possibility either.
I felt goose bumps on my arms beginning. I jumped back into the water and rolled on my back. The water covered the tops of my shoulders. For a few seconds I thought I might sink. My heart stopped pounding like a hammer and my breathing relaxed when my body instinctively righted itself. The closest experience I recalled was swimming in a pool during elementary school days. As long as I stayed in the water I remained relatively warm.
After another 15 minutes or so I stood in chest high water. I wished for another dive into the water when my limbs began to quiver like jelly from the cold. My teeth clicked together several times. I didn’t hear any splashing of waves around me. The voices of the rest of the group were distant. “Hmmm, am I the only one in the water?” My thoughts wandered back to the enthusiasm of the other students when we reached the edge of the water. “Damn! I feel like I’ve been set up!” I laughed to myself. “You’ve done this to yourself.” I sternly told my brain. “Everyone out of the water.” Mr. Jones called. My legs moved like pieces of pipe at first. It became easier after a few seconds. I kept listening for other foot steps as the water touched my waist, then my knees, I felt my skin flame beat red When the water touched my ankles and heard someone walking in front of me. My thoughts weren’t of a charitable sort. At that moment I wished I had a snake shooting venum to throw in the middle of the group.
I wrapped myself in my large beach towel. I followed behind everyone back to the picnic area calming my emotions. it was time for lunch. All the bags were placed on a table. After all the other students settled down with their sack lunches my Cooking Connection Class gathered at a table by ourselves. Each of us had brought actual lunch boxes with thermos compartments. Each of us had two pieces of Ginger Chicken, a small container of Macaroni Salad, and a medium sized piece of Lemon Pound Cake. As we began to eat and the smell floated around a line of people gathered around. “Hey where’s mine.” several people asked. “Go take a long walk on a short peer. John told them.
“Why since you brought something different you should be sharing with the rest of us.” Marcos spat at John.
Gretta another member of my class pulled out of a cooler a chocolate cake. “here Marcos here’s napkins, paper plates and cake. Give everyone a slice.” She slammed the bag with the plates and napkins in his hand. He couldn’t see the icy glare she gave under her shades while she spoke I felt really embarrassed.
“I didn’t mean to get all of you in trouble!” I mumbled after Marcos left and calm was restored.
“Don’t worry about it.” John replied.
“Actually we’re glad you wanted a different type of lunch.” Greta chimed in chewing a bite of chicken.
“I know this beach is a real disappointment to you.” Sarah added. “Well, it was definitely different. Thanks for making the lunch it really helped.” I gave them all a high-five while sipping on green tea.