laguna beach

Sunday, late morning. My caffeinated bounce around the kitchen as you walk in from the gym. Beach tote packed. "Let's gooooo."

Breakfast first. The weekend sleep-in staples: cashew milk, cold-brewed coffee, baguette with butter and cheese. You can take the boy out of France but not the French out of the boy.

Boring drive down. Then suddenly: beach fog so thick and dark the ocean seems to be on fire. It's burning off quickly though. Smoky grey patches hustling inland, as if aware they've overstayed their welcome.

Highway becomes town. Surf shops, hair salons, pet boutiques, seafood shacks. Should we stop here? No, keep going, we'll know when.

Sidewalk breaks into green. Grass and a playground sidling up to the boardwalk. Blankets, sprawled-out limbs, dogs with Frisbies or lolling tongues. That chilled out beachfront vibe. Yesssss.

Metered parking on a winding side street. Souvenirs, candy stores, galleries. Five mom and pops for every corporate outpost.

Drinks first? Then exploring?

Don't have to look long. You find a place overlooking the water. Tiny swimmers in the distance, umbrellas all in shades of blue. No frills, standard grill fare, the server smart alecky and careless but we like him anyway. "We'll have the tequila quesadilla." Bits of blackberry pool at the bottom of my cocktail.

God, the sun. The haze has fled, and heat is sinking into my bones. Squinting without my sunglasses down at my phone, reviewing the dozen pics we've already taken.

Our table neighbors intrigue me. Sun bleached and Florida faded. Definitely tourists, definitely right coast. Her leg is slung across his lap, and he runs his hand lightly down her arm. His second marriage for sure, fifteen years on her easy.

Would the server mind taking their photo? Clearly he would, no time for that shit, busy busy busy, takes it facing the sun so they're in shadow.

Ellie to the rescue! No, I wouldn't mind at all. "Ugh, my phone's a piece of shit, sorry." Fumbling, tapping frustratedly at an unresponsive 4 that is clearly on its last leg. Finally gets the camera to load.

"I'm gonna take a few okay?" I fire away, multiple angles and distances. They look them over and she raves. "You're so good!"

Already digging in my bag for lipgloss, I pull out my Joby. "You're talking to a girl who brings her own tripod, okay?" They laugh; a tipsy grin from Terence. Half a beat later she volleys: "I wasn't quite sure what that was..."

Awesome, I love her. The four of us cracking up. She punches it: "We're all adults here." Bigger laughs. I say something about 50 Shades of Grey.

Second round of drinks. Just enough, exactly how toasty I wanted to be on the inside. California beaches only lose their chill in the deepest part of summer.

Changing tops in the bathroom, brand new open back rashguard I've been dying to wear. Excitement like opening day at the water park.

Hurrying down to the sand. You carefully rolling up your cargo pants, me itching to yank off my jeans and go splash.

Stretch the festival sheet out, less foot traffic over here. Weigh it down with our shoes. Put Spotify on. I'm already bounding down to the water.

Cold, fucking cold, no surprise there though. Just up to my knees then. Which means my thighs, accounting for waves.

The rashguard feels amazing. Slinky and smooth, warm against the breeze but none of the persistent sting of direct sun. Fuck yes.

I feel freer and more comfortable in my skin than I have at the beach in years. Hurdling waves, looking back like a kid. Did you see? Yes, you saw. Is that your phone? Are you recording me?

I run back up to you, then back down to the water almost immediately. This is great but it's making me want Mexico. The icy water is just a tease, the dark blue vaguely sinister. I want clear, bath-warm waves slapping gently at my legs. God, we need to go to Mexico.

I can't walk, I've forgotten how. Only running from now on. Rushing to you, not at all chilly just charged with happiness, flinging sand with my heels but no one's around, it's okay.

Lower myself onto you, push up style. Roll to the side. Pictures, more pictures. The light's so pretty, you're so pretty. Turn this way, get the solar flare, see? 

Relaxing. Then not, because I can't sit still. Come with me to the water! The cold hits you harder than it hits me and you groan. 

Messing with the tripod. Let's do a jumpstagram! A what? Hang on, I'll show you. I stabilize the legs carefully in the sand, twist the timer to start, then hurry to you at the water, calling out the number as I run.

"Seventeen! Sixteen! Fifteen! Fourteen! Thirteen! Twelve!..."

"What are we doing?" ("Eleven! Ten! Nine! Eight!...")

"Jump on 1! ...Five! Four! Three! Two!"

We hurl ourselves into the air, legs akimbo, almost unable to launch from laughing so hard. The timer is still beeping though so we jump again. Hopefully we got something good.

Oh holy shit did we ever.

(By the way are you thirty-seven or seven? Because I'm definitely nine.)

Winding down. So's the sun. Let's get fudge, I'm not leaving here without fudge.

Rinsing our feet only to get them sandy again right away. You've got to let them dry, rub the sand off then. Tiptoeing across pavement, partially dressed, still jazzed from the ocean but I'd better get some pants on. "The further you get from the water the more risque it is."

You mean my ass, peeking out of my bikini bottoms. I didn't realize until I changed in the bathroom, but I doubt I'd have cared much anyway.

Jeans, sweater, jacket, even my infinity scarf that I'm glad for, despite being on the beach. I'm cozy and dry and ready to wander. We ditch the bag in the car.

Popping in and out of shops. Barrels of saltwater taffy but no, my heart's set on fudge. Pop Rocks! We have to get some. Pouring in mouthfuls on the sidewalk outside, comparing the noise. I win, I dumped the whole pack. They snap and crack as I wedge them between the tips of my canines. I've done this before.

We find a two-story cluster of tiny hut-shaped stores, all closed, but the bridges and walkways are open. "It's like an Ewok Village." The church across the street chimes the hour: 6pm.

Food, we need real food. Dodging strollers and dog leashes, a hungry crowd on the prowl like us. Every restaurant a forty minute wait.

You want a burger, so I Google: "best burger in Laguna Beach". The only promising option is the drive-up joint we passed coming into town. Cheap but good if reviews are to be believed.

But you're reluctant to leave, stubbornly hitting up every hostess at every place we walk by. Hour wait or more at most places. "Come on baby, let's go back."

"No, I don't want to go home." "You don't want today to end, huh?" I tease. "No." Yeah, me neither. We needed this.

I thought the sun was done with me but it isn't. Comes gleaming over the tops of cars, a fiery streak I'm impatient to get close to. Beach sunset. Beach sunset! Hurry the fuck up, stoplight!

Your leg is bothering you, so you'll catch up. You take a picture of me taking a picture of the ocean, pink and yellow sorbet smears. We attempt a selfie together. Too dark.

Up the road, another cluster of shops. They remind me of Seaport Village. Galleries with ugly, surrealistic and pop art. Too much color, it competes with what's already outside.

Not much light left though. And then it's gone.

Slowly making our way back to the car. A narrow offshoot from the street leads to a secluded overlook. Totally dark, makeout central, but another couple's beat us there. We check out the view, listen to a wave or two, then retreat.

Stop in another candy shop, just to gaze at the truffles. "Fudge is my absolute most favorite dessert ever," I announce, thinking of the way my mother made it, putting shallow trays in the fridge to set overnight. It would all be gone within a day. I should find a recipe. I wish I could find hers.

At the car. I'm hitting a wall. So full. Are we really stopping for burgers? But you didn't have fudge. 

Husky Boy it's called, like something straight out of Tucson's main drag.

A burger each, fries, a soda and a root beer float. Overload, toxic, wonderful. At some point I ditch half the bun and fold the patty on itself like a slice of pizza. Still can't finish it.

We're giggling about something I'll forget when I write this up. What was it? Will you remember?

I'm quaffing my Sprite, I've never been so thirsty. Fudge. 

And now we really have to leave this place. I'd offer to drive but my night vision's crap and I've hit an even bigger wall. I don't want to fall asleep while you drive, so selfish, but baby...

Half asleep. KCRW. Head propped on my fist, fighting, fighting. Henry Rollins show. Okay, yes, this will keep me awake.

We talk music. Your music. Traffic is dense and fast. I hate driving at night. Keep us safe, I can't keep my eyes open. 

Ah, there. Familiar towers rise into view. I live there. Right there. I can read the letters on the tops of the buildings. There's the one whose elevators Chaucy loves. There's the one Terence used to work in. There's the one we park in the basement of. Hurry up, buildings, get closer, I am sun-sleepy like a child after Disneyland. 

My god baby, you might have to carry me upstairs. I am done for. But there's still the puppy to be walked. He'll scramble for his Piggy when he hears the door, pressing it into our hands, pushing his head at us for pets and love. 

He's going to smell the sand and the salt and oh yes, the burgers. He's going to know the sort of day we had.