When I say we go to the beach to do absolutely nothing, that’s only half true.
I do nothing. Michael does a lot. What he considers leisure, I consider a workout.
He stands around a lot on the beach, looking out to sea; he goes for walks; he smokes cigarettes; he endlessly arranges and rearranges his towel, ensuring that no particle of sand has had the gall to land upon it.
He reapplies his sunblock exhaustively; he goes for swims.
After one of his aquatic breaks he unfurls a couple of large black garbage bags he’s brought with him and collects litter on the beach.
I’m exhausted just telling you about it.
In the meantime, I’ve barely moved a muscle. Literally.
Here’s my drill.
We arrive. I kick off my flip flops and unfold my beach chair while Michael sets up the umbrella.
If I’ve remembered to wear a swimsuit I take off my shorts.
I position my chair under the umbrella. If we’ve had the patience to go for sandwiches at the glacially-slow but very good sandwich shop in Isabel, I lovingly devour my Cubano (thin-sliced ham on bread so toasty-crisp you’d swear it’s been spray-starched).
If we didn’t stop for sandwiches I down a bag of chips and a few pieces of sandwich meat (turkey or ham) picked up at the colmado on the way down.
After lunch, I stand up—reluctantly, it must be admitted—to apply sunblock to Michael’s back.
Then I sit down again and rummage around in my backpack for my book.
The ensuing hour, or two, or three, are about as close as I ever get to heaven (with a few exceptions that don’t make suitable copy for a PG audience).
In my opinion, the luxury of not thinking is vastly underrated, particularly if you’re a chronic over-thinker like me. Sitting on the beach in Vieques with a good book in my hand (and sometimes a beer in the other) affords me the extreme pleasure of turning off my brain, at least the self-defeating, always-worrying lobe, to a degree that I never achieve anywhere else, under any circumstances.
Sitting on the beach facing the ocean with no human being in sight—with the exception of Michael wandering up and down, burning thousands of calories—has the same effect on me that sitting in a chair in front of a roaring fire has for others. The water’s repetitive action is mesmerizing without being distracting in the least.
I can’t tell you how much I love slipping into my book for a completely oblivious couple of hours, only to look up and discover that the sun has catapulted itself appreciably westward, the tide has rolled out, and Michael has turned a slightly darker shade of chestnut.