I started a long CD burn, and grabbed my sweats from under the desk. I usually changed in the bathroom, but hey, why bother when there was nobody else at work? So I stripped off my regular attire and stepped into a grey sweatsuit, with dark oil-worn gloves. I had no pockets, so I folded my keys into the palm of my hand and stuck the hand into a glove, then folded the glove into a fist.
The outside air was foggy, and the shadows were quiet and unreal. That annoying italian place that blares loud music all night was still open, but I began running immediately, and soon the houses down a side street were my treadmill to the beach. Running was easier than last time, I didn't feel so much lead in my stomach from recent food, and the general desk-job lethargy was partially burned by that run from a few days back.
When I jogged, I always went to the same place. There's really nowhere else to go unless you fancy a long, winding trek to the boardwalk, or the uneven terrain of the docks. It's a straight shot down a compact suburban gridwork, terminating suddenly at cliffs and railing. Tonight I broke left, where the shadows continue, and made my way to the metal stairs.
This time I stopped for air at the top of the stairs, and then again at the bottom. I relaxed my ankles and pumped my knees for the trek over loose sand. By the time I got to the surf, my head was saturated in the sea-salt that had been pounded into the air. Nobody around. So I took a piss while I caught my breath again. My mind washed up a quote. Someone once told me "You've never lived until you've had a girl topless over a Cisco router". I added to the checklist. "You've never truly been to the beach until you've pissed on it." A mile south, the foghorn tooted a note that worked it's way north, lingering in every
inch of mist.
My load thus lightened, I followed the beach north. I checked behind me twice as I ran, mentally arguing with myself about why I was doing it. How the hell could anyone sneak up on me? Part of my mind insisted there was someone jogging right on my back, where I couldn't see unless I turned fully around. My two guesses were that it was Death, or that it was the rest of me, a twin made up of every mood and impulse that I wasn't acting on. Did I think I could run away from my bad parts? They were catching up. And since I wasn't in a murderous rage, they would be.
In a couple more seconds I had it. It was because I was running alone, that's all. Sometimes running does that to a person. I filed the analogy away for later use.
A ways down the beach were two dozen people grouped loosely around a bonfire. The noise of their chatter was light and celebratory. I squatted to catch my breath and remembered all the beach fires I'd been to, and thought about warm friends and conversations. This group was most likely a clique of high-school students enjoying summer vacation. I wondered about that sequence of time I'd come to call my "college years", and the gatherings I'd engineered during them.
Part of me felt jealous and wanted to stand up and walk into the lit circle, wondering if there was anyone I knew. But I knew there would not be. This was not my age group any more. Did I really want to regress back to an earlier stage of my life?
I considered the time. What had been there? Dinners, movie nights, strong laughter over bad puns, impromptu pictures. Swing dances. Anime festivals. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Lots of smart girls... A fine time. I fancied I would probably enjoy a few more rounds of it, but at the same time, I felt like the costume was too small now. I have a hideous fear that I'm outgrowing all my previous ideas of entertainment. Getting more serious about self-actualization and artistic projects. This fall, I'll still know half a dozen good people at UCSC, and their interaction is there for my taking. But somewhere in my brain is a voice saying, "You've done this long enough. Go do something else."
... No, it's not a matter of fitting into an old suit, I thought. I got up and jogged back down the beach, leaving the bonfire of strangers decisively behind. If I was to have a gathering, it would be with my own people. With people that I met before the ad-hoc rush of college relationships. Perhaps I'd found a few keepers at UCSC, but mostly, I knew I fit best with what I've come to refer to as my "old crew".
As I made my way up the steel stairway, I pondered the idea of a gathering. A lot of the same friends were still around. With some scheduled days off work, and a dozen phone calls, I could assemble a gathering just like any other. It might possibly include a beach bonfire like that one. I still felt, inside me, the structures and habits that would come out to play in a gathering. The conversation topics. It would be interesting to sit at the controls of an earlier edition of my mind, spin the wheels, cruise around the old neighborhood. It wasn't old, really. If I just bothered to run some gas through it, the colors would be as vibrant as ever. But with my oldest friends, I never felt like I was watering myself down for them. Meetups with them were always the most rewarding. Our gatherings were often useful creative hotbeds. ...But I'd kid myself if I said it was really about anything other than fun.
Perhaps this society has become "an overripe fruit that has begin to stink." Perhaps all people care about these days is indulging themselves. I know that my high-tootin' computer-oriented lifestyle is sustained by the sweat and pain of a hundred, perhaps a thousand, less lucky individuals farther out on the rim of industrialization. People are born into a state of perpetual celebration in this society. What am I supposed to do with my resources? "Bad. We should only eat beans and rice."
So I jogged back to work, wondering what was best for my conscience, and found my CD burn completed. For some reason I was inspired to write. Now it's 6:00 and I don't know what the hell I was thinking, but this narrative is winding down. So that's alright then.