abeyance

I went to the coast yesterday, with Erin. We bought lunch at a seafood restaurant in Malibu that had temporarily set up an outside drive through. A tent for staff taking orders, a standing beverage cooler stocked with canned beer and sodas, and the hallmark charm of SoCal seaside fish shacks: hand-drawn chalkboard menus.

Fifty-five bucks got us fried clams, fried squid, fried onion rings, french fries, and two bottles of water. Would we like ranch for dipping? You bet your sweet mask we would.

Across the highway from the restaurant is a small pullout overlooking County Line Beach. We ate in the car, gazing out at the ocean and debating the graces of surfers vs skaters vs snowboarders while eating regrettably massive portions of deep fried fare. So bad. So great.

When we'd had enough, we moved to a wooden bench bolted into the cliff side of the rusted out guard rail. We watched the young and the athletic suit up, stretch out, and wade determinedly into the tide, tethered by the ankle to their beat-up boards. Midwesterners, we admire but do not understand surfing.

How do they not bang into one another, when they cluster up like that? 

Ugh. I could never find my balance.

Isn't the water too shallow, where the waves hit?

For some of them, it had to have been their first post-lockdown surf. I bet it was glorious. It looked glorious, to be battered clean by waves that seemed strong enough to smack COVID-19 all the way back to Wuhan.

I envied them their fortitude. Too cold for my blood.

Me, I'm still waiting for my own post-lockdown burst of freedom. I had drinks in a real live bar last week, and I go for maskless runs in Hancock Park almost every night. But I'm pining for something big. Something commemorative and regenerative. An overnight in the woods, maybe. A full 24 hours with nothing on my face but fresh air. We'll see.

Out of nowhere, a black and white Border Collie appeared in the weeds near our feet. But she had no interest in us. She sniffed around impatiently while her human locked up the car, then bounded down the cliffside ahead of him. Erin and I looked at one another, briefly terrified - so steep, oh my god, is she - but when I stood up to check, she was already splashing around in the water's edge.

We watched man and dog play frisbee in the grey June gloom. Leaps and barks and digging and laughing and scolding and tricking and laughing again, until a sandy-haired, slump-shouldered teenage lifeguard came by to stop the sport. County Line is not a dog beach. No off-leash play today.

Girl, tell us about it.

Eventually I declared a need for ice cream, because fuck self-restraint during a pandemic. We got back into the car and wound our way down to Brentwood, for scoops of Salted Caramel and Lemon Verbena at Sweet Rose. Five thousand stars.

Then, neither of us feeling inclined to return to "real" life, we had a single, drawn-out cocktail in Santa Monica. It was lovely to be out, out of my house, out of my work - but it's just not the same. Servers in masks and plastic face shields. Restricted seating placements. Rules underlining everything. Low-grade anxiety and hyperawareness unescapable.

I know we've got a long road left, and I'm grateful for the social and professional diversions I've been blessed with (my work never closed - I'll tell you about it in another post). But if you've been wondering how I've been doing? I've been holding my breath. I've been surviving, but generally ill at ease. Everything feels suspended. On hold. Life in abeyance.

Is it the same for you?