how buying a siddhartha head is like buying a house.

I subscribe to a blog about yard sales (disclaimer for my mother - there is coarse language on the blog), specifically about the terrific and horrific things you find there. But the blog also gets into some yard sale theory, a term that I just invented (and a class I'd love to teach). There's a good entry today about the fluidity of value and the similarities between yard saling and selling real estate. Here's an excerpt:

I think that real estate agents are also very tuned into the concept of value being fluid. That is, an item’s value is really whatever someone is actually willing to pay at a given time and place, and not some well-defined number that can’t be argued with (no matter what some “collectible price guides” would like to think). Haggling (or “making a counter-offer”) is a completely normal thing to do in both activities — though I’m glad to say that having someone offer more than the asking price is practically unheard of at yard sales. This price fluidity can be really great or really frustrating when you are dealing with secondhand items. Just like people might have a hard time accepting that their house isn’t going to sell for what they think it should, there are yard sale sellers who think that if something sold on eBay for a certain amount, their similar item should get the same price at their yard sale. On the other hand, when you find something that’s priced fairly to you, it’s a beautiful thing (even if the person next to you wouldn’t have paid half that much for it).

This is something that I've thought a fair amount about, and an attitude that I gradually adopted the more I bought things used. I didn't even realize that I'd developed this outlook until one of the first times that I took Josh yard saling. He was eying this statue of the head of Siddhartha. We had asked the price, and it was something like three bucks. Josh whispered to me, "Is it worth that?" I shrugged and replied, "I don't know. Is it worth that to you?"

That's really the point when you're at a yard sale. It's not about what the seller thinks it's worth or how much he paid for it in the first place, it's about what you're willing to pay for it. Would you rather have the statue or the x dollars? For what value of x does that answer change? Can you get the seller to agree to that value? Sometimes, you can't. Their value system is too different from yours.

Since there is a disconnect between your value system and the seller's, this means you have to let some things pass. That's hard to do sometimes, but I promise I've regretted buying something much more frequently than I've regretted not buying an item. Learning to not buy something seems to be a useful skill in other areas, too, one that is especially useful now that my value system is so skewed to expect yard sale prices on everything.

If you were curious, he did buy the statue. I think he might have negotiated the price down, though. He's a quick learner.


you might as well jump.

Maybe I'm giving away secrets here, but Josh has been working on his stage presence. He's already got a look - ridiculous sunglasses and a white lab coat. Now he's decided that he needs an act. For the most part, when he plays, he stands and plays the bass. He sways a little bit, shifting from one foot to the other. I think this is perfectly acceptable. He's the bassist; he's not supposed to be animated. The bassist is the dark, brooding, mysterious one. That's the persona that I want and am attracted to. If I wanted animated, I would have gone out with a lead guitarist.

But the crowd likes it when the band is active on stage. I can sort of understand that, because fun can be infectious. But then I think about a band we saw once where the bassist was not dark, brooding, and mysterious at all. He did jump kicks. There was also a lot of the wide playing stance and some forceful nodding and hand-raising. But it was the jump kicks that got me. It made me wonder if that guy did jump kicks in his daily life. I can see him sitting in class, getting back a graded exam, finding out that he totally aced it, and doing a jump kick in the middle of the classroom. The whole thing came off as too contrived. I hate contrivance. Also, I'm no musician, but it seems like it would be pretty hard to play the bass if you're constantly airborne. Shouldn't it be about the music, man?

I'm being a stick in the mud. I know that a concert is a performance, it is entertainment. If the crowd likes it when the band members jump and dance and writhe around on the floor, then that's what they will do. It has nothing to do with sincerity, and a lot of times, it doesn't even have that much do with the music. Besides, even if the act is forced doesn't mean that it's necessarily fake. Maybe that guy wants to be the kind of person who jump kicks in class, but it's only on stage that he can let his inner jump kicker out.

Does the rest of the audience even think about this? Do they think jump kicks are ridiculous, too? Perhaps they just think it's fun and they're having fun because the band is having fun and it's fun when it's fun. Nobody cares about being genuine, and there is no prize for it. The Great Pumpkin is not going to visit the band that is the most sincere. However, there are lots of prizes for lots of people having fun at your concert.

I'm not saying that everyone has to stand perfectly still, the way they taught us in sixth grade chorus. I am not immune to the appeal of a band that enjoys playing music for people. But there's got to be a line between keeping your knees locked and jump kicks. As an audience member, I should not be able to tell that you practiced that move at home. I want to believe that you're dancing and grooving because you're having a great time sharing this song with me, because you're so into the music that it's controlling your muscles. I want to believe that it's spontaneous. But if you overdo it, the spell is broken. It's like watching a movie that shows a casual disregard for the laws of physics or (I'm going to be in the doghouse for this one) professional wrestling.

Regardless of all this, Josh is going to do what he wants to do. If the crowd reacts positively to that, then he'll keep doing it. But if a bunch of perky girls start hitting on him, then I'm just going to have to inform them that he's the dark, brooding, and mysterious type, and then send them on their way to the lead guitarist.


fraudulent detergent.

"Hello. This is a recording from the Citibank Fraudulent Activity Branch. We have noticed possible fraudulent activity on your card. First of all, do you have the card in question in your possession? Press 1 for yes, and 2 for no."

"Did you, or someone that you authorized, charge $8.60 at a grocery store on Sunday, October 26th? Press 1 for yes, and 2 for no."

"Thank you for choosing Citibank."

Should I be grateful that Citibank is so alert, or should I be angry that the phone call was supremely unhelpful?

To be fair, I did some unusual activity on my card on Sunday. Here is a summary:

1:45 AM $10 Alley Katz, Richmond, VA (bar tab)
2:15 AM $8 Some gas station, Petersburg, VA (snacks)
2:25 AM $50 Interstate Inn, Petersburg, VA (hotel)
10:30 AM $60 Seibert Towing and Police Impound, Richmond, VA (get my car back)
11:30 AM $30 Same gas station, Petersbrug, VA (gas and a cup of coffee)

Now, I don't go to Richmond very often, and I don't get my car towed very often either. So to say that this is unusual activity for me is fine. In fact, if Citibank had called me and said that somebody might have stolen my credit card and then parked in a tow zone, I'd applaud them and feel that much safer. But no, they call me and ask about the grocery store.

I had been to the grocery store about half an hour before I received the call. I bought laundry detergent and a gallon of milk, and the total cost of those two items was around $8. I don't know exactly, because I am a free-wheeling single chick who can run to the store every time she's out of milk and without even bothering to save the receipt. And so the grocery store charge could conceivably be mine.

But it would have been really helpful if Citibank had bothered to tell me where the grocery store charge happened. They tell me that unusual activity has happened without giving me any indication of what was unusual about it. Maybe they know I don't really wash clothes very much - the purchase of laundry detergent was the unusual activity. I'd be happy to press 2 for no if they asked if I bought a gallon of milk and laundry soap somewhere in Idaho.

So good job, Citibank. I guess. Thanks for letting me know that something was suspicious, even if you can't tell me what it was. Thanks for keeping an eye out when someone buys milk and laundry detergent on my card. I'd hate for you to think that I was the one doing all the laundry.


spätzle-related incidents.

I had two spätzle-related incidents last Saturday. The first was when we were out yard-saling, and I happened to run across something that I thought was a potato ricer. I walked over to the book section of the sale to show it to Josh, thinking he would be very impressed that I could correctly identify a potato ricer. I was going to neglect to mention that the only reason I knew it was a potato ricer was because I had seen one before at a thrift store and thought it was a huge garlic press, only to be corrected by a burly mountain man.

Anyway, I got over to the books, and said, "Hey, look, I found a po-"

"Oh, you found the spätzle press," interrupted the gentleman working the sale. "It's from Germany." Oh. Does this world really need three different devices that squash things through tiny holes?

I decided not to buy the spätzle press, because I'd never even had spätzle before. I might not like it, and then I'd be stuck with a giant garlic press. I don't even have a regular-sized garlic press.

The second spätzle-related incident was at the eastern european restaurant where we had dinner. See, Josh and I had a fancy date, where we actually dressed nicely and then went out to dinner and a show, as opposed to eating a homemade dinner off of plates on our knees while watching a crappy Bela Lugosi movie. We're just keeping the romance alive here. In preparation for our fancy date, I had harnessed the power of the internet to find an interesting restaurant in Raleigh and had come up with J. Betski's. Why did I pick this restaurant? Because I am a food adventurer, and I had never eaten any incarnation of many of the things on the menu.

The restaurant was tiny, and our little table for two was sandwiched in between other little tables. It was packed, which meant there were about 30 people there. We ordered a glass of Hungarian wine for me and Lithuanian beer for him, plus a pierogi appetizer. For dinner, he had the schnitzel, and I had the duck, which came with spätzle. The menu was like a lyrics sheet for a song about words that are fun to say. Schnitzel. Pierogi. Lingonberries. Macadamia!

The bread came, warm and with whipped butter on the side. It tasted very...authentic, which is to say that it must have been invented in Europe during a war or some other shortage of ingredients that make bread delicious. It was very bitter. But me, ever the optimist, said that at least we wouldn't have to worry about filling up on bread before the entrees came. The pierogies were okay, but only okay.

And then the entrees came, smallish portions beautifully arranged, and one bite erased any doubts I had about the restaurant based on the bread. I was shoveling this food into my mouth, and I became fatigued as if the all my energy was being used by my taste buds in the enjoyment of each bite. We reached across the table to trade forkfuls of wonderfully weird food. Everything was delicately and perfectly spiced, as if the chef introduced all the flavor friends to each other and had a big flavor party. I was already calculating when I could come up with an excuse to come to this place again so I could try something else. Or maybe the duck again.

Though I had struggled to finish every last bite of my meal (and I did it, dadgummit), I knew dessert was in order. A table across the aisle was enjoying some sort of pastry covered with caramel stripes and filled with thin apple slices. We ordered one of those (strudel) and a pot of coffee. Yes, a pot. They brought out a large french press for the pair of us and brewed our coffee right there. It was fresh and delicious. I felt revived.

We were sad to have to leave, but we had concert tickets. We left full and elated, slightly caffeinated. I was thinking of the many new treats introduced to me. The spiced cabbage. The pickled pumpkins. The spätzle.

The spätzle!

I should have bought the spätzle press.


biscuit spit.

It was a Saturday morning, and I had decided to take on biscuits. There are many foods which I wish to someday conquer, foods which can be acquired in a almost-completed state at the grocery store. I want to prove to the world that I can do it better than the expensive, yet convenient packaged goods. I had already defeated frozen pizza and fries, but now it was time for biscuits. Also, I'm dating a nice Southern boy, and I think biscuit-making abilities might be a prerequisite for marriage.

For about the fiftieth time since I started cooking, I discovered that making something from scratch is not as difficult as the convenience food companies would have you believe. I mixed the ingredients, used a canister lid to cut the biscuits, and stuck them in the oven. When they came out ten minutes later, they were not as fluffy looking as I might have liked, but they were mine. I took a bite.

Then spit it out.

Josh stared at me. This was the first time he'd ever seen me spit out food, and perhaps he was determining whether our relationship was worth the risk of ever seeing it again. Maybe I should have considered my audience more carefully before shooting a half-eaten biscuit bite from my mouth to my hand, but the biscuit was just plain bad. To his credit, he also tore off a small bite and put it in his mouth. He managed to swallow it, but he was raised better than I was.

I started wondering where I had gone wrong. There's no way the recipe, which came highly recommended, was meant to turn out like that. Those things tasted like pure baking soda. I mean, that sorta made sense, because I had put a lot of baking soda in. It was in the recipe! See, right there, baking...powder. Well, there's the problem.

"Oh, I used the wrong ingredient," I explained to Josh as he rooted around in the fridge for something to get the bad biscuit taste out of his mouth. Suddenly, he swooped upon me, taking me in his arms, rubbing my back and kissing my cheek, murmuring, "Oh, it's okay, s'okay." I enjoy a good swooping hug as much as anyone, but this one was unexpected. Had I been four years old with a freshly-scraped knee, I might have understood.

I thought back to myself six months ago, trying to make salmon and screwing it up, crying in the kitchen because I'd burned myself and the glaze was more like hard candy. Cooking stressed me out, and the slightest mishap induced sobs. However, the more I cook, the more I realize that sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. Of course, Josh remembered me emerging from the kitchen with red, wet cheeks and red, burned arms and was trying to reassure me. He really is very sweet sometimes.

"Honey, I'm fine. I can make another batch, it only takes like twenty minutes." So I did. And they were good. I win.

My standard biscuit recipe. I could probably make better biscuits if I got up at 5 AM like those old women in the Hardees commercials, but you can get up at noon and make these.


no smiling.

Now that I've vaguely mentioned some sort of horrific accident twice without actually telling you anything, I'll clue you in. Josh had a wreck on his bicycle. He doesn't remember what happened, because he hit his head. He also scraped the skin off of much of the left side of his face. However, there were no broken bones and the CT scan came back clear. He continues to be the luckiest person I have ever met, and I am beginning to suspect that he is stealing from someone else's luck stores. It better not be mine. But now that we've covered what happened to him, let's talk about how it's affecting me.

The thing that has made the most difference in my life has been his busted lip. There are stitches in his mustache zone and stitches inside his upper lip. A bunch of the skin was also scraped off like ice on a windshield. Aside from being a bit funny looking - the upper lip scab looks a bit like a Hitler mustache - it limits his facial movements. He can't eat anything that requires him to bite into it. So there's been a lot of soup, as well as stuff that can be picked up with a fork and then dropped into the back of his mouth. And the one straw that I own has gotten more use in the last few days than it ever has before.

He can't kiss. I'm also limited as to where I can kiss him. The whole left side of his face has been pretty much off-limits. I mean, there are safe spots, but every time I lean in to give him a peck on that side, he winces and waits for the pain. I don't think he trusts my ability to not hit one of the danger areas. Since I don't particularly like to kiss people who are making pained expressions, I just avoid that side completely. I can kiss him on the lower lip if I'm very, very careful, but mostly I'm sticking to his right cheek. Sometimes, he leans over to kiss me, then remembers halfway there and turns his head sharply. Then he looks a little heartbroken all over again. I feel bad for him, but at the same time, I am touched that the withholding of such a simple thing as a little kiss from me makes him so sad. I am a terribly selfish person.

So the eating limitations are affecting my diet, and I haven't been kissed in almost a week. But the thing that's really starting to get to me is that he can't smile. My brother used to play a game where he would fake scold me in a very silly, very stern voice, telling me that I was not allowed to smile. Josh has been playing the No Smiling Game for days now, and he is good at it. But it's getting me down. Have you ever spent time with someone who never smiles? Geez, dude, lighten up! You know, he hasn't laughed at one of my jokes in nearly a week, and I'm coming to realize that a great deal of my self-esteem comes from that alone! I should probably consider diversifying my self-esteem sources.

Now you know more about the accident. I'm sure you're very relieved to hear that I'm fine, really. I mean, it's hard, what with all the soup I've had to eat and the fact that my confidence is falling with the stock market, but I really think that, with time, I'll be able to recover from this whole episode with only light scarring. Thank you for your concern. It really, really means a lot.


internal schedule.

Wednesday was stressful. I had a doctor's appointment at 4:15 and a volleyball game in Cary at 6:45. Not only that, but our team captain had gone to Hong Kong and left me in charge, and we were short a player. We'd already had to forfeit two games for not having enough male players, and I wasn't even sure if I was allowed to recruit people in the middle of the season. Finally, Josh had a show that night downtown, so we'd be up pretty late.

I work on an internal schedule. I've thought a lot about my internal schedule recently, because my boyfriend does not have one. I'd never thought about it much before, because I'd assumed that everyone worked the same way that I did. I thought people were late because they'd miscalculated what time to leave, not because they hadn't thought about it carefully beforehand.

There are the definite events on my schedule, like the doctor's appointment or the volleyball game. But then there are the items that are implied by the events. What time do I need to leave to be somewhere five minutes early? Do I need to go home first? Did I schedule time to eat? If I pack my change of clothes in the morning, will I have time to stop by the pharmacy? These are the things I think about, and I think about them early. As soon as I know about an appointment, I think about where I'll be coming from and how long I'll need to get there. I always pad the time generously to account for traffic and a possible late start. By the day the actual thing is supposed to happen, I've got it all mapped out in my head. You can tell me that I don't need to do this, but I swear it's automatic. It just happens. But having my internal schedule makes me feel like I know what's going on. I am prepared as well as possible for this day. Good morning, Wednesday, I've been expecting you.

Once my schedule is set, I don't like to veer from it. Even if there will be no consequences for doing so, straying from the pre-determined schedule makes me very antsy. Upset, even. And so, when it was 5 PM on Wednesday, and I was still sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office, I began to feel the familiar nervousness that comes from other people not respecting my inner schedule.

I was already a little keyed up from the prospect of forfeiting another volleyball game. I never wanted to be captain. I liked being captain of the team in high school, but that only meant that you had to call a coin toss and be supportive of your teammates. Being captain of an adult league team means that you have to call people and remind them of games, that you have decide on a line-up every time, that you have to be sure you're going to have enough players to make a team. And while I knew it wasn't my fault that people weren't showing up, I still felt responsible. Dude, I just want to show up and play.

So I spent that morning sending instant messages to every guy at my office who seemed like he might be willing to come play with a bunch of people he'd never met. Most of them said they had other plans, and even if they were lying, I don't fault them. But one of them couldn't think of an excuse fast enough. I still wasn't sure if my recruiting was completely within the rules of the league, but I figured that would only matter if we won. And unless this one dude happened to be incredibly awesome at volleyball, I didn't see that happening.

So I'd found a player, that's one checkmark. I'd made it to the doctor's office on time, check two. I was still sitting in the waiting room as the husbands of nurses that worked there arrived to pick up their wives. But then they finally noticed me and decided they'd better see me, since I'd already paid. Okay, so it's a little later than I'd like it to be at this point, but we're still okay. As long as I can make it to the game on time, everything will be fine. And as long as the other players get there, too, and no one questions whether this new guy is allowed to play on our team. I need to chill out.

But then I did get to the game on time, and I even had time to get some chocolate milk and a banana. My players showed up, well, four of them did, but that was enough to play. And we were terrible, but we were in good moods and happy to be playing if we couldn't be happy to be winning. Everything was fine, I'd been stressed all day but everything came together in the end. I could go to the bar downtown, have a beer, watch my boyfriend play bass, and relax. I had met Wednesday head on, and it had been a little sticky, but I'd succeeded at it through preparation.

I got into the car and opened my phone to call Josh. I noticed I had a voicemail, which I figured was probably him, telling me he was at the bar or something like that. The message came on, and his voice was shaky and quiet.

"I guess I had a bike wreck, and uh, I'm at Wake Med in the emergency room. That's where I am."

As I drove too fast to the hospital, I thought about my internal schedule and how this wasn't on it at all.



When you go to a show at a bar, they mark you. This is to signify that you paid your entrance fee and that you're old enough to pay more money to the bartender. Getting marked is always a high priority for me, one that I make my prime mission after we've unloaded the equipment. See, since I never appear on stage with an instrument in hand, there's nothing to prove that I have a right to be there for free.

Different bars have a different way of marking you. Sometimes it's a stamp mark, or if it's a really high tech establishment, a Sharpied 'X' on one or both of your hands. I've woken up with these X's all over my face, after having slept with my cheek against my hand. I look like I had a much weirder night than I really did.

But some places use bracelets. They're always neon jobbies, the kind that come in huge stacks of strips, and you peel off the adhesive of one side, wrap it around your wrist and stick the opposite end to the sticky side. They're made of whatever material exists at the intersection of paper, fabric, plastic, and glue. I hate these bracelets. Whoever is running the door puts the bracelet on for you, and it's always too tight, which is restrictive and annoying, or too loose, which means it threatens to come off and lose you your bar privileges. At some point, I had to put one of myself, and I discovered that there is no right tightness. The bracelet is just irritating no matter how much it snuggles you. It reminds me of when I used to put Scotch tape on my cat's feet just to see it try and shake the tape off.

Last night, Josh's band had a show in downtown Raleigh. But we didn't go. We went somewhere else instead, and as I was holding his hand, trying carefully not to touch any of the many scratches, I thought about bracelets.


innocent until proven the middle child.

We were sitting on the sidewalk outside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We had dastardly intentions. We had just been told that Josh couldn't come in the museum with his pocket knife. After he griped a bit, reminding me more and more of my father as he did so, we decided to stash his knife in the bushes, then retrieve it later after visiting the museum. So we were killing five minutes, watching people go by before we tried to go back in.

A family with three little boys was passing by, the older one walking alongside his parents as the two littler ones followed behind. The littlest, who was maybe four years old, started walking on the raised cement border of a landscaped area like it was a balance beam. He slipped and came crashing down on the cement. Immediately, he started wailing.

"I didn't do it!" the middle brother immediately shouted. Uh, kid, it's not a good idea to declare your innocence before you've been accused.

The dad examined the skinned knee and picked up the crying boy. It didn't look like a serious injury; he seemed more tired than hurt. No doubt he'd been trotting around behind his parents all day. He quieted down to a whimper as he laid his head down on his father's shoulders. I sometimes wish that I was still small enough to be carried that way. As the family was walking on by, the dad turned to the middle son and sternly said, "Nice work."

"What? I didn't do anything!"

"Were you guys chasing each other again?" The argument faded out of hearing as they continued down the sidewalk away from us. I wanted to protest, run up shouting, "Excuse me, sir, I saw the whole thing!" But it was none of my business. And it wasn't the dad's fault, really. He, like all parents, was just going on the information he had and doing the best he could with it.

I wondered why the middle son had tried to defend himself so quickly. It did seem like an admission of guilt, but then again, I was five feet away and watching them, and I hadn't seen anything. Maybe he just got blamed for stuff a lot and he could see how this situation was going to turn against him. I thought of many eloquent defenses he could have said to his dad, if only he weren't six years old. Is that what it's like to be a middle child? No wonder my sister didn't like me. She was probably always getting blamed for something every time I was a klutz.

And I gotta tell you, I'm pretty klutzy.


creation returned to creation.

It had to be 5 AM. It was the second night in a row that I'd been up that late. My body had stopped protesting for the most part after I'd bribed it with a Jack and Coke and a couple of leftover potatoes. "You can stay up," it told me, "but only for a little while longer."

We were all walking toward the beach. As our feet hit sand, we hit a problem. There was a five foot drop from where we stood, straight down to the sand below. Big storms had hit recently, and the ocean had reached up the shore and taken a big bite out of the coastline, leaving its ragged teeth marks behind. Getting down wasn't the problem, it was the getting back up. But that was a problem for later, and thinking about future issues wasn't really in style with this group. Just go with the flow and we'll figure that out later.

I rolled up my pants to my shins, but the third or fourth wave caught me up to my knees. That first soaking was freedom, though, because you don't worry about getting wet when you're already there. I stood there, alone and away from the group for hours. Or minutes. I thought about the beach, and how I didn't really like it. But that was unfair, because I liked this beach. Empty of people, I could hear only the ocean. I could only see the whitecaps, as the rest of it faded into the night. I thought about how the ocean was always like this, and I just hadn't noticed it before. It was comforting in its constancy, the water being pulled in and pushed back out, like deep breaths.

My peace was palpable. I wondered what makes us feel at home in places we've never been. We had been to see a speaker a couple of weeks back, who talked about visiting a primeval forest and feeling strangely as if he had been there before, as if his evolutionary ancestors wakened inside him at the sight and smell of the place. He called it genetic memory. I don't think I buy that. I feel connected, but not through whoever came before me. It is me, myself. I am not connected because someone long before me came from this place. It is because I am made of the same stuff. It's ashes to ashes, dust to dust while I'm still alive. Creation returning to creation.

Josh came up behind me and rested his chin on my shoulder, testing the waters of my mood. Before the potatoes, I hadn't been as friendly as I might have been. We stood there awhile, breathing in and with the ocean.

My attention had drifted to the stars. They were beautiful, and yet the light pollution from the beach city behind us carried enough to make the sky a hazy dark gray. I missed the view at my parents' house in the mountains, where the deep blue was framed by the deep green of the trees, or the night in Kansas, where the sky was impossibly big and the Milky Way was something you could see instead of something you read about in Science class. One bright star shone at me, tiny and clear. I considered making a wish. Then I realized the star was moving. Josh started to pull away.

"The question is, do we tell our kids how to recognize satellites in the sky?" I asked, knowing I could capture and keep his attention with a good conversation. "It's always disappointing to me when I realize that the really bright and shiny star is a satellite."


"Yeah. Because there's a star, and it's really bright and seems so close. But then I realize that it's moving and it's just something we put up there. It's just a big hunk of metal, like I see every day. It's not special at all."

"I think it's amazing, a testament to our ingenuity. Look how far we've gone, and think how far we can still go." I guess that's supposed to capture my imagination the way it does his, but really, it just makes me feel alone.

We wandered back up the beach and scrambled up the recently formed cliff of sand. A couple of people were sitting on a bench. Already filthy, I sat on the sand next to them. As a group, we had been rambunctious and loud, running on alcohol and lack of sleep. But it was quiet now as we slowly came in from the beach back up to the overlook that separated the real world from the ocean.

"So I guess we know the answer," I said.

"To what?"

"Whether the ocean is louder than Big Mike. I can't hear him." Mike was a big man and a loud man, and you could chart how late it was based on the volume of his voice. But the familiar sound of him arguing about something, anything, whatever was not there.

Josh leaned forward to look at Mike's still form sitting on the bench. "He's asleep."

I pulled up the hood of my hoodie and laid back into the sand. Those relaxation tapes that sound like the ocean were a good idea, but no competition to this. I thought about taking a nap and whether I could convince Josh to keep guard and shoo the crabs away from my face. But I wasn't really worried about the crabs. Surely they would recognize me.