Volleyball, Sand, and an Awkward Romance
There’s something about the beach.
I’m not talking the sand, or the sun, or the water, or even that light coconut smell that permeates the air. No, I’m talking the mysterious way it goads sane, rational people into turning into complete idiots.
Men, once comfortable in their dad-bods, suddenly feel the need to assert dominance, or prove that they’ve still got it by playing beach volleyball without regard to the sunburn brewing, or respect for gravity as they dive for the ball, or recollection that sand is not stable and more likely to trip you up than anything else.
Women, usually content to hang out in sweats and read a book, find it impossible not to slather themselves with shiny lotion, giggle at the preening volleyball players, or both.
Maybe it’s the amount of skin showing. Or maybe it leads back to those awkward teenage days when being stupid is normal, and this is what we did.
Either way, I hate going to the beach.
My dad-bod is at the height of its dad-bod-ness, and I don’t even have children. Sand is the second-most irritating thing on the planet, right behind preening middle-aged men.
I don’t mind the giggling women, because I’m a comedian. It’s my job to make people laugh, and I pretend I’m doing it on purpose.
My friends know I hate the beach, but every year they drag me out at least once.
“It’ll be fun,” they say.
“You love it,” they say.
I’d much rather be home working on my next stand up routine. Or so I thought, until I got the idea to use the beach as my foundation for comedy this year.
Oh yeah. It’s like wading chest high through comedy fodder out there. So I download a good recording app, packe my phone into a plastic bag, and head out.
Most of my friends are married now, so it’s difficult to miss the hoard of chaos that is our group. Dads try to erect pop-up beach canopies while moms immunize their children against the sun with aerosol sunscreen that’s at least SPF 6,000. A couple of the older kids are attempting to blow up air mattresses, but it looks like more air is going back into their lungs rather than into the inflatable dinosaurs and princess boats.
I’d caught a good deal on a beach shelter on Black Friday, and it doesn’t take me long to toss up the half dome and put my stuff underneath.
One of the kids finally spots me and runs over.
“Hey, Travis,” I say to the six-year-old.
“This is better than our canopy,” he says as he eyes my dome.
“I like it.”
I see a little girl with blond pigtails wearing one of those tank-top and shorts suits watching Travis. Her suit is, instead of princesses, covered with images of Wonder Woman. I don’t recognize her, but she never takes her eyes off the kid.
Travis is a cute one. Bright red hair, freckled cheeks, already showing at least the hind of muscles in his scrawny arms. Although if the truth be told, it was probably the Captain America board shorts the kid has on.
The volleyball starts not long after that, and I manage to not embarass myself while at the same time taking copious notes about things that strike my fancy and might be good for a standup routine.
All through this, the little girl never strays far from Travis. When he goes to the water, she goes. When he comes back, she follows. Poor thing looks painfully shy, and Travis is totally oblivious.
When all of us super-tough manly men finally admit defeat to the blazing sun, I see Travis watching the little girl. She’s got the foundation of a huge sandcastle, and is studiously working to make it taller.
I’d gotten a bunch of fodder for adults so far, so I decide to try playing cupid for the kids.
“Hey, Travis,” I say as he walks by.
“See that girl over there?” I jerk my head.
“Yeah.” He looks at her, then back at me.
“You should go help her with her sandcastle.”
“Why?” The word comes automatically, as if he says it no matter what comes out of an adult’s mouth.
“Because you’re a master builder.”
Travis puffs up his little chest and nods. “Duh.”
I watch Travis tromp over there—I think he’s trying to strut—and sit down next to the girl. He immediately starts talking. After a few seconds, the girl looks at him and nods. Travis joins her building endeavors.
“Did you just sick my son on that poor girl?” Travis’ dad asks.
“Sure did. You’re welcome.”
“I’d better go make sure it’s okay with her parents.”
“That’s a thing?” I ask.
“You’re so lucky to be single,” he says as he tromps away. Now I know where Travis got it from.
I turn my attention back to the adults around me until Travis runs over a few minutes later. “Uncle John!”
“Yeah?” I was almost asleep.
“Mimi lost her hair comb. Can you help us come find it?”
Travis grabs my hand and drags me to my feet. “Come on!”
The little girl, Mimi, has been joined by a woman about my age. She’s wearing a white cover up over her suit, which looks stunning next to her dark skin. They’re both sifting through the sand. Travis’ dad nods his head and mouths, “You’re welcome.”
What did that mean?
“Uncle John can find anything. He’ll help,” Travis announces when we arrive.
The woman looks up and smiles. “Hey.”
I may or may not have gone weak in the knees for a second. “Hey,” I said.
Travis drags me down to the ground. “Come on, help us find Mimi’s hair thing.”
I meet the woman’s eyes and smile. “You got it.”