beach party

IT WAS ME, Mingus, and his old pal Banastre, who used to play bongos for Juliette François, the chanson singer. Mingus had on his beret, and the seaside humidity was fogging in his glasses. Banastre was at the wheel, in his “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirt and graying, shoulder-length hair. Both Mingus and Banastre are girlfriended men now, betrothed to Thursday and Wednesday’s Tinder dates, respectively, and they like to give me advice about how a real relationship should work, and how much time and energy one must invest to extract the golden nectar held within. “Every gift should be more expensive than the last,” noted Banastre, “and every vacation more luxurious than the first.” “That sounds like a lot of hassle,” I said. “I don’t need that in my life.” “But you must be in a relationship,” said Banastre, glancing into the rear-view mirror at me riding solo in the back seat. “You absolutely must.” “Why?” “Because anyone who isn’t in a relationship is a loser!” “I think what dickhead is trying to say here,” jazzed Mingus, “is that it would do you good to have a steady woman.” At that, he put on “IX Love,” and we listened to the fine bass line at the beginning and that was the end of that part. We drove on through the high reeds along the inlets and bays of the West Sea until we reached the beach house, which is where the party was. It was some gathering of horribly average people though, who were talking about Pipedrive and Bolt and there was some suspicious white dip that might or might not have herring in it. Something about it was too Nordic Silicon Valley meets Melrose Place for my liking, even though it was a cool house, multistorey, with high peaked roofs, and hammocks strung from high beams, cushions on the floor, curries simmering above tiny flames, Indonesian in style, and a sauna downstairs, of course. From the deck nearby, I could see a small island beyond the beach, with a rickety wood fence, and some colonial tombstones. Somehow I wanted to get to the cemetery island, where I thought it would be more peaceful, but to get to the stone bridge that led there, one had to squeeze through a tiny corridor, and I just didn’t fit, and most of the bridge was submerged in sea anyway. One of the party girls came over to me and told me not to even try getting there. At the party, there was a certain hippie woman with braids and floaty, dreamy, way-high eyes, the eyes of any lady who has dropped too much acid. Nightmare Hippie Girl was wearing a black shirt that read “Quicksilver Messenger Service.” We went to the toilet and began to kiss, and then I pulled those hefty breasts out of her shirt and began to consume them. It felt dry and tacky though, you know, and tired and soulless, and there was no love in it all. I wanted to go home, now, but Mingus and Banastre were having none of it. “Relax, man,” said Banastre. “Hang with us. Want some fish soup?” Then another man came in through the screen door, looking like a yuppie extra from Weekend at Bernie’s, with his sweater tied around his waist, and announced, “The weather is looking grim out there, folks.” It was. Dark storm clouds dotted the horizon, and the air was thick with portent and pre-lightning humidity. The water level started to rise, and I realized there was no way to leave the house. There was no way. I looked over the bay again at the cemetery island. Then I tried to call my daughter to ask if she was all right, but nobody answered. I went down the steps and saw my bag floating toward me, rising on the crest of the water. I must have left it on the beach sand when we arrived. The outside of the bag was soaked, but everything inside was still dry. I went back inside, found a hammock and just lied in it. I took out a paperback and began to read it there. It was The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. The strange acid girl was there in the corner, sipping her soup and staring at me with her quicksilver eyes. Mingus and Banastre were somewhere off having sex with their girlfriends in the sauna. “But you must have sex with your girlfriend in the sauna,” Banastre had said before heading in. “You absolutely must.” Miss Quicksilver eyed me. “I love you,” she mouthed. Would we be joining them for a perfunctory sauna shag? Not yet. The hammock was just too comfortable and someone was playing a gamelan. I read about Marlowe’s private eye adventures in 1930s Los Angeles. I must have dozed off after that.

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