“We’re empty nesters now, so my husband sent me down here.”
She speaks with a soft southern accent, tucking her wild brown curls back in a clip as she fights the wind that is blowing east off the ocean, directly at our bar stools. It is a losing battle I have learned not to attempt to fight.
“Are you visiting, too?” she asks, sounding hopeful that she might have found a vacation friend.
“Oh no, I live here,” I tell her, and laugh to myself.
Live here? I live at the beach bar when my bartender girlfriend is working. I live a mile up the road from the beach bar and keep the world in which I live to a tight two-mile radius because it’s easier that way. I live each day hoping the muse will speak more than two mediocre paragraphs to me, and I am thrilled when she does.
I live mostly content here these days, alone.
“Oh, that must be fun, living here,” she says, sipping the glass of white wine that she carefully selected after tasting several. I watched her do this moments before she started our conversation, and I marveled that my beach bar offers so many wines by the glass. As with my world, I keep my wine realm to a tight, two-glass radius–pinot grigio or cab, depending on my mood. I am just fine with my beach bar’s house wines because they are not that bad, and I am not sure I want to get used to the finer names and associated prices.
“Yeah, sometimes it’s really fun. But it’s definitely had its challenges,” I reply, then ask, “Where are you from?”
“Oh, me, too! I mean I was, until I moved here.”
“Well, I actually live pretty far out in the suburbs. But this…” she gestures at the churning ocean across the street from us. “This is incredible.”
Yes, yes it is.
“At first I wasn’t sure about coming here on my own, but I’ve been so sad since both my daughters are now in college. I haven’t known what to do with myself. My husband thought it would be good for me to go off alone, you know?”
Really? But not quite good enough to vacation with you in this “incredible” place with the views in which to lose yourselves? Where you can savor the sand and sea and wind and stay cheap in a great hotel and remember why it was you even got married decades ago before you had kids–those kids who suddenly grew up before you realized it.
“And I think it has been good for me. But I head home tomorrow. Back to it all, I guess.”
To what? The empty house, the empty feelings, the husband who’d rather send you away than go away with you?
I don’t know why I am being so judgmental, because I don’t know this woman beyond our brief exchange and it’s none of my business, but I kind of want to shake her. She seems so…so…resigned.
When she excuses herself to go to the ladies room, a couple of regulars sitting adjacent to us ask, “What’s her story? Do you know her or something?”
I explain that I just met her, and how her husband sent her down here to be on her own for a few days, with the kids grown and gone and all.
“Right, so he can have time with his girlfriend,” says one.
“Or maybe he’s hoping she’ll meet a boyfriend here so he can stay with his girlfriend there,” laughs another.
Maybe. Or maybe it’s just another marriage that’s grown old along with the kids, and vacationing alone doesn’t feel so different from living alone under the same roof.
When she returns, we chat for a few more moments, and then I tell her I have to head home.
“It’s been great to meet you,” she smiles. “I have a feeling I’ll be down here a lot more often. I’ll see you again, I hope.”
“Sure,” I say. “Safe flight home.”
As I walk to my car, I think about what I am going home to this night–my dog who needs walking, an apartment left just the way I left it a few hours ago, a view of water and yachts I never tire of, a quiet I am learning to love.
I am going where I have chosen to live, to be–in all of its sometimes loneliness, but lately, in all of its evolving peacefulness. Despite the angst that came with my choice to be here alone and a first year that almost felled me, much has been funny and good. Much more good is to come, of that I am confident.
And no one had to send me here to find that out. I just did it–all alone. On my own.