If it was up to men, we would dress like castaways: tattered, frayed shorts, button-up shirt, and a beard. Sandals aren’t a requirement, but would probably help on streets suspect of broken glass. We would drink beer with no ill-effect other than a well-maintained buzz, and full-blown intoxication when we required it. The weather would always be delightfully cool, and in the evenings it would rain on command so we could sit on the porch and drink more beer and watch the girls who got caught on the beach run back to the houses in white T-shirts. Sometimes they would seek sanctuary under our porch to wait out the rain, giggling and biting their bottom lips, because they don’t speak English. They would bring us more beer and let us try to throw Combos into their mouths from twenty feet away. They would stay the night, and in the morning we would have breakfast. They would still be giggling and at lunch we would decide to share our beer.
We would make love to them at dusk and wake on the beach to an empty blanket, save our drunken legs. Understanding that we will never see them again we would try to believe they were mermaids. For a few days we would lament, pretending at night that any glint of the moonlight on the surface of the water is a breaching caudal fin, and in our minds we would accompany this hopeful delusion with the appropriate sounds.
Some days we would go fishing, or simply take out a skiff and let the ebb of the ocean, the slapping of water against the outside of the hull, and the sun, lull us into a state of satisfaction – eyes closed, a beer in one hand, the other hand allowing our fingers to blindly tease the surface of the sea. We would fantasize about the mermaid coming back to us: the things she would do, the giggling, and the way she would bite her bottom lip when we do something she finds attractive.
This memory would exist only on our authority. If the feeling of loss were to become too much to bear we could simply dissolve it in a shot of Rum. On this day it would rain without our say-so. And we would again sit on the porch, watching the girls, drinking our beer.
Later, a woman in town would comment about how our pants are falling apart. Maybe she would help us find a new pair, or give us a pair she had had lying around the house – perhaps they belonged to someone she hadn’t seen in a long while. She would tell us a story of a fisherman and we would have trouble deciding how much is true, and how much has been stretched into folklore to accommodate her pain. She would insist we take the pants, and because we think she needs to let go, we will take them.
We would go home, throw our new pants over the back of a chair, and listen to a baseball game. Even if we had no interest we would listen to the whole game, because the sound of a cracking bat, and the swell of excitement in an announcer’s voice (from a simple 2-0 pitch, to a go-ahead run in the top of the 9th), and the low ambient sound of a crowd, would remind us of being at our grandmother’s house – the voice of Harry Kalas, and the way he said “Mickey Morandini.”