Tucked just behind the giant sand dunes at the very end of the road, the beach house had all the perfection a get-away place should have: No neighbors and right on the shore without being exposed to the frequent storms, or looky-loo weekenders. The sliver of a view of the ocean, just past the point where the dunes gently rolled into the beach and the tall grasses abruptly stopped, still stretched out uninterrupted for what seemed like miles. Eric was relieved to see the unbuildable marshy grass area around his family’s property remained the stalwart guard against ever-encroaching new development.
It had been such a long time since Eric had been to the old family place. He was surprised nothing much had changed, but also relieved. His parents spent a lot of time and money on the place over the years, but they kept things looking pretty much the same. Familiarity, and the comfort of home; of childhood’s home, was what he needed. Eric was glad he’d made the trip.
He put the few groceries he brought with him away, grabbed a beer and got situated in his favorite spot on the deck. He settled back in the weather-worn adirondack he remembered helping his dad build when he was about 12 or 13 years old. For the first time in weeks, he felt himself relax.
Looking out at the sunset sky, memories of long summers ran through his mind’s eye. He and his siblings played for hours in the surf and marshes, building forts, and race tracks for toy trucks, and pretending to be the first people who lived in this area who had to survive outside in the wild. He grew up hating the month of September, because it meant time to leave the beach house for another year.
Crazy bender weekends spent here during college brought a smirk to Eric’s face as he recounted the rowdy antics he and his buddies got up to. With no neighbors nearby, letting loose and getting loud was no big deal. No stuck-up daddy’s girls living in the house next door to call the cops and complain. They spent a lot of weekends at the beach house.
At night, they stayed up drinking, laughing, playing video games, and burning their pathetic attempts at cooking dinner, always setting off the smoke alarm. If the moon was full and bright, they’d run outside to toss a football around on the beach. Of course, daytime was for sleeping, and they’d stay in bed well past noon. Eventually they’d drag their hungover selves into Ocean Crest City for more beer and something to eat, sometimes stopping at the go-cart track for a couple of spins before heading back to the beach house to start in on another night of partying.
Occasionally one of the guys would bring a girl he’d been seeing, and she’d usually bring a friend along for company. Every so often, one of them ended up with the friend, at least for the weekend. But mostly the girls did their own thing. Or, they played video games with the guys. Everyone always drank too much, and teenage hormones ricocheted off the walls, as well as each other, but it casual. Nothing too crazy. Until the time Nate’s roommate brought a bunch of girls he picked up somewhere.
No one ever learned where the girls were from, or where Nate’s roommate met them. Eric’s best friend at the time, Zach, was sure they were hookers who worked the truck stop just off the interstate; the big one at the turn-off to Ocean Crest City. Eric wasn’t so sure. That these chicks were skanks was no doubt. But he didn’t think they were actually hookers. Anyway, everything got out of hand and out of control that weekend. And the girls kept egging them on, like none of it was a big deal. Eric understood why Zach thought they were pros.
The problem was the girls brought some serious dope with them, and lots of coke. Eric and his friends smoked a bit, snorted sometimes, that is, if one of them had the balls to buy a little bit of the stuff. And, sure, you bet they made big, sloppy plays for cute girls at parties, or when they were out for beers, always with the hopes of getting laid that night (and sometimes one of them actually would). But, basically, they were a bunch of dilettantes. Partying with chicks like these girls was not their m.o.
Eric never brought anyone back to the place after that unhinged weekend. He skipped school so he could thoroughly clean up and fix the damage they caused. It took him the better part of two days. Zach offered to help, but Eric wanted to be alone.
Back at school, Eric worried he might have missed something, and that his mom or dad would discover what he missed. But as time went by and nothing was said, he knew he dodged a bullet. That weekend left a bad taste in his mouth, and he resented his favorite place was tainted by it. Eric buckled down at school, and visits of any kind to the beach house, including invites from his parents and siblings, abruptly stopped.
Eric graduated college with high marks and jumped head-long into his career. He and Angie had been dating only a few weeks at that time, but he insisted on getting married when she tearfully apologized for getting pregnant. He took the big career-move job in Ontario shortly after their eldest was born, and they made a life there.
Eric’s parents routinely suggested they gather at the old beach house whenever he and his family planned a visit, but the distance for Eric, both physically and emotionally, was too far to have to travel back. He always declined.
Sitting on the deck, Eric realized what he missed most about the beach house is how he felt when he was here. As a child, and as a young man, he’d sit in the same spot he sat in now, staring at the same view of the ocean, wondering what was out there; what was next; what was going to happen. Anything seemed possible then, and everything seemed exciting. He needed to feel that way again.
Thoughts of Angie flooded his mind. “Angie, my darling girl,” Eric said aloud, “you made me promise ‘no regrets,’ but, ” Eric paused as deep emotion took a sudden choke-hold, “…I …regret… never bringing you here, to this wonderful, this most beautiful, this incredibly perfect place. God, how much I’m going to miss you.”
Eric stood and raised his beer. Angie would have loved it here.