A Date at the Beach: A Love Story

It turned colder, that’s when it ends, so, I told her, we’d still be friends. Then we made our true love vow. Wonder what she’s doing now. Summer dreams, ripped at the seams. But, oh, those summer nights.

Summer Nights, Grease.

It is a feeling that most have felt at one time or another, some call it love and others call it a curse. It comes on strong and then leaves without a whisper of goodbye. We all have places that remind us of that love, maybe it was where you kissed a girl for the first time or a dinner where you and that boy looked at each other and stars danced all around each other’s heads. No matter where that place is, love leaves its mark. That mark might be bitter, it might be a blessing, a warm feeling on a cold day, or that thought that carries you off to sleep. My own memory of love sadly is wrapped up in fragments that seem to slip away as the years go by. The words said no longer stay in my thoughts but the actions have left an imprint that seems to recall moments when all that mattered was the person I was with. We all have those moments, even if the next day reality came knocking, for just that small moment in time, we thought we knew what love was. 

Seal Beach as you can see from the pictures, is the kind of beach that only Southern California can offer. Sure there are beaches with better boardwalks, better sand, better waves, and better locations but for me, Seal Beach is like a pocket of warmth come to life. Maybe I’m overreaching here, maybe it all seems so much better in my own mind, those days when the sound of the waves on the sand seemed real. I might be over 2,800 miles away currently but I can close my eyes and hear it right now, the waves rolling in and out. 

The wooden pier at seal beach on a quiet day in 2017

I am going to tell you a story, it is not some crazy story that will change your life and you might even forget it by the time you are done reading it, but the world in my head needs to tell it because slowly over the last 20 years, it has started to fade away. So I am going to tell it as best as I can, this is a story of a night at the beach and the date that didn’t want to end. 

It was the summer of 2001 and dark days were ahead of us all, but at the time all I wanted to do was meet her. We would talk deep into the night, back when I loved to talk on the phone, minute after minute we would share in every thought that we had. I don’t remember how we met but I am sure the internet had something to do with it. This was the early days of the web and saying that you met someone online was a dirty thing to say. I was a young 22 and I didn’t have much experience with love but I knew that love could hurt bad but here I was trying yet again. I was on a bus going towards what I felt was a moment in a movie where some sappy song was playing as the star went towards his destiny. I got off the bus on Pacific Coast Highway and Main Street in Seal Beach and was ready for an afternoon of smiles and laughter. 

So I know you are wondering, where the hell is Seal Beach and why should I care? Well maybe you aren’t asking yourself why you should care but I think you should care some about where this tragic love story takes place, and yes this is a love story in case it didn’t dawn on you already. 

The sand is endless it seems. Plenty of space to look around.

Seal Beach is a city in Orange County, California. It has around 24,000 people living in it and it was founded in 1915. There isn’t anything really special about the city, even though a 2011 mass killing made the news, it is pretty much always a quiet place. It has an average temperature of 74 most of the year, so it’s a good place to live if you want good weather. Seems like a nice place right? Well, it is but I don’t want to talk about how nice the city is, instead I want to talk about the wooden pier. That pier was the meeting spot for this date. The pier is well beaten and has had to be rebuilt a few times over the years. And it was at this spot that our story starts to unfold. Now everything that I am about to tell you is going to be in pieces because like I said before, my memory has started to fade some. I don’t remember enough of the details but I remember the important parts. So here we go!

We met, we talked, we acted shy and coy. We sat on the sand and looked at the pacific ocean. I am sure that words were passed or maybe they were, we were both pretty quiet people. There was an Eskimo kiss, which if you are unaware of is when you rub your noses together. I cant picture it in my mind but I know it happened but I can’t tell you why that stands out to me. We walked around the streets of Main Street, talking and laughing. I remember we talked about the movie, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which had just come out that summer. We walked and talked a lot and the day started to slip on by. Now I said at the start of this tale that I was on a bus, well in those days I didn’t drive and neither did she. So we had a limit in our time together, but that magic was in the air that day and we kept pushing our goodbye later into the night.

I was in love. Or was I? I don’t remember but it was something, Something strong that I didn’t want to let go. And like a scene from a movie, the sun went down and we stayed close. But we had nowhere to go. Just two people who didn’t want to be apart, And didn’t know how to make it work.

The sea water with its salt and foam stand still for a moment.

I don’t remember how it happened or what was said at the important point, in which the last bus had come and go but it did and now we were two people without a way home, and we didn’t care. We walked around some more all night, all the beach and streets, just passing away the hours of the night together. It’s the kind of thing that a 22-year-old with nothing else going on in life would do, and the 42-year-old in me now thinks it was just all so crazy! But that magic was working its mojo that night. We slept on the sand, got told by the cops to get off the sand and we just enjoyed the company. 

The first rays of the morning started to appear and we knew we had to start heading home. We had a breakfast meal at Denny’s, at a location that isn’t even around anymore. We kissed and said goodbye. And she went home and I went home and I am sure I was happy. So where does the pain in this story come from because I am sure your thinking that all of this sounded great?

Seal Beach is a haven for surfers. Here a few go back away from the waves

We kept seeing each other a lot more, lots of trips on the bus, lots of trips to the beach. I was with her on the morning of September 11, when the world stopped for a moment. But like so many loves of the heart, what started out with a deep passion slowly turned into a light fire that one day just went out. Maybe another year we shared together, but one day she was an important part of my life and then the next she was gone. 

I look at all these pictures taken in Seal Beach and I think about her. It has been a good 18 or so years since I last spoke to her. This was in the days before social media so she is lost to a memory that my mind has tucked away for those cold days. I think that’s what photography is all about to me. It is a way to see the world in a new way but it is also a way to hold on to the memories that my mind let’s go.

My shadow lingers on a summer day. The beach of that summer day still burns on that sand.

I have one picture of her, we were at Universal Studios and her back is turned towards me. It was the capture of a moment when things seemed right. We had our moment and I’m thankful for it. The night magic was in the air and even if it didn’t last, it gave me hope that it was something that was possible. It was not my first or last grasp for love but it gave me hope.

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