Not too long ago I saw a middle age woman in obvious psychic distress at the beach. How did I know? I just know. I’ve seen so many times in women and men at the beach in my 23 of living at the Oregon Coast that I know it when I see it.
She was just sitting on a bench facing the ocean and staring. It wasn’t a tourist kind of stare. It all brought to mind an incident I observed well over a decade ago that has always stayed with me. I wrote it years ago for a book that was never published. Here it is, somewhat amended:
Suffering from a slight red wine hangover and feeling exiled off Main Street, I hit Nestucca Spit at dawn on a Saturday without the dogs to clear my head and detoxify my mind.
The salt and brine smell especially stiff this morning. It makes me think of the bloody Mary I don’t want. For five minutes I walk south down the Spit and gaze upon the incoming tide’s multiple white layers. My hangover begins to ebb, but I keep walking. The dogs do their unusual non-hangover things and make me smile.
I turn around to take in Haystack Rock and Cape Kiwanda and see a smallish barefooted woman on the Spit, one hundred yards away. I see her saunter at angles toward the waves. She almost appears to dance. I clearly see her remove a ring from her left hand and clasp it with her right. She stops at the water’s edge, lets the tide rush over her feet, hesitates for a moment, then cocks her right arm back and throws the ring west with all her might. I know the throw didn’t come from a jilted fiance. Only married people throw like this. Or soon to be unmarried people.
After the throw, the woman stares west for thirty seconds and then retreats from the water, no longer sauntering. After a bit more time, she vanishes into the dunes to return from wherever she came, but, of course, without a ring.
I wonder how she will explain its absence.