Cold Beer – Cheap Rooms

James Duncan

A rotting hull of a shrimper’s boat idle in the knee-high tide came into view as we drove into town, looking for the last room in tourist season. It ended up being a perfect second-story room in a house overlooking the beach, the long piers and carnivals in sight, just a short walk away from where the locals live. They were seafaring folk, salt in their blood, wind in their hearts, a tight smile for out-of-town money. We liked the room. The bed felt right, and the breeze on our legs as we walked along the shore felt even better.

Every love once knew an ocean view, remembered in times of death and sorrow. Those moments are overlooked when ankle-deep in the lapping waves. We stared out into a dark eastern horizon, smelling fried dough but not quite able to hear the carousel yet. Quiet here, couples and small families with well-behaved children – we’d find the riot closer to the lights, screaming haranguing Americana with lobster hoodies and flip flops looking for sugar and cheap thrills.

We decided to find a café away from the tourists if we could and walked the streets of the coastal town, picket fences, Buicks in driveways, those yellow tufts of tall grass that sway on Atlantic winds, chipped B&B signage reading cold beer – cheap rooms, cracked pavement from hard winters. We ate oysters by candlelight and paid Manhattan prices but we didn’t mind. The fried oddities and sugar-spun delights would come later. She held my hand for the first time in three months as we walked north to the sound of tilt-a-whirl laughter in the distance.

We joined the pier alight with the fire of human entertainment as explosions pierced the sky. There’s a pause where everyone looks up, then goes about what they were doing, but some stay and watch. Fifteen minutes of red, green, blue, white, the impact of sound against my chest. We lost games and ate more, and I indulged myself in a beer by her grace, as she never drank but allowed it on special occasion. We took the beach on the way back, people still out on towels and bouncing balls back and forth in the darkness, lit shadow-orange by the towering rides behind us. The sand mosquitoes ravaged us. We ravaged each other. The sheets were smooth and warm with our bodies wrapped up and our heads buried into pillows, breathing each other in the coastal air.

The day comes when boarded windows sleep those memories away, the pier hunched against the tidal wail and winter maw, the drinks gone, the people gone, fled to places where ships do not sink. Some catastrophes are inescapable. On death beds and floors of sorrow you will remember the heat and lights, the cold beer and the cheap rooms of love blind to a future without. Easily overlooked. Not so easily forgotten.