since we finished

Back to back beach days this long weekend. Venice today and Manhattan Beach yesterday. Yep, we spent Valentine's Day together. We just sort of tacitly agreed to, without acknowledging the occasion.

"Weather's supposed to be incredible Sunday. Want to go to Laguna or something?"

"Hell yes. That sounds wonderful." For one thing, if I don't make a point of getting out of downtown, well, I don't get out of downtown. For another, we still have fun together. That's undeniable. And while having fun with your ex might be a bad idea, as far as I know it's still legal.

Sunday came and we got a late start, ending up in Manhattan Beach instead. We found street parking a few blocks above the water just as the sun began to hang. Terence waved me ahead, indulgent and smiling, shouldering a tote stuffed with hoodies we'd be glad for later. I bounded down to the pier, conscious as always of the crinkly feel of the bones in my left foot. It broke, it healed; I swear it still crunches, though. A small bank of photographers and lovers--and lover-photographers--had staked out spots along the shoreline and were firing off shot after shot of the waves crashing against the dock. I crouched down out of the way, a bit to the side. I'd come later than everyone else. Prime real estate wasn't mine to claim today.

The next five minutes felt solemn. I grinned at a white-haired woman who glanced my way, carefully backtracking in the sand to get a better view. Her camera had a massive, glossy black lens that I could see myself in when she faced me. "This light, right?" I shook my head to indicate amazement, awe. Respect, too, as I suspected this was her turf. But she just gave me a tight-lipped nod. No chatting at Manhattan Pier at sunset. Got it.

When I'd gotten my fill of the pier, I joined Terence at the water's edge. We watched children scramble in the sand, screaming as the foamy waves caught their ankles. I tried to angle them out of the photos I took, but there were too many. Tiny silhouettes, drunk with sunshine and play. We watched the horizon bloom and took pictures that we didn't show one another. We sent texts to friends and family that we didn't share. I noticed him writing a poem in his phone's notepad; I didn't ask to read it. But after we'd rinsed the sand off our feet, we strolled the length of the pier arm in arm and felt as companionable and relaxed as every other couple we passed.

A lone surfer bobbed on mild, rolling waves near the pier's south side. Mostly he floated, paddling into or against the waves as necessary to maintain his position. But every tenth wave or so, the gathering swell apparently promised to deliver the momentum he needed, and he worked his board alongside it. Nothing much doing, though. He just sort of coasted inland a bit, then paddled back out again. Later than night, long after Terence had fallen asleep and I couldn't, I followed a couple of surfing accounts on Instagram. An entirely foreign world that fascinates me. The crush and curl of the wave just before it collapses. The fearlessness and balance. The lush, sunny, aquamarine cool of it all.

The sun died spectacularly. Lovers paired up along the railing took selfies, giggling as they adjusted themselves to frame the streaks of pink and blue over their shoulders. Other just clung to one another and watched. We did a little of both. I curled my fingers into a heart shape, but when Terence tried to snap a photo of the sunset behind them, I couldn't get my pinkies lifted the right away, and my heart was squat and broken. A job for Photoshop and a metaphor I won't touch. When we switched places, on the other hand, Terence's heart was full and perfect. Oh, did you believe me when I said I wouldn't touch that metaphor?

We got dinner on a quiet stretch a few blocks from the crowded boardwalk. Oversized meatballs with pomodoro sauce and micro basil; ahi tuna wontons with wasabi crema. I ordered a cider and Terence had wine. We teetered back into the night full and tipsy and dangerously happy. We made a dumb Vine video that had us in stitches. We put on our sweatshirts and pulled the hoods up for one another. We got ice cream and a frosted cookie the size of Terence's hand. We laughed and bickered and window-shopped our way back to the pier, now fogged over and cold. At the end of it, we huddled and spoke in hushed tones, honoring the mood or the moment or maybe just not daring to be loud in our joy. We gazed out at the offing and wondered about the deep, dark water. We braced ourselves for the intermittent shuddering of the dock as thunderous waves smashed into it. It was the closest we've been to where we started, since we finished.

We stalled going home, but eventually we did. And when we woke up, since Terence had the day off and I myself am on hold for several weeks while a piece of equipment I need is customized (I will explain soon, I prooooomise), we decided to go do it again.

I checked: definitely not illegal.