Admittedly, my attention span has seen better days (or weeks). I can’t blame the sunny Maui mornings, and it certainly isn’t for lack of coffee. Sticking with the excuse of being overworked and under-relaxed, we headed to the beach purposefully intent on finding focus.
Our fully-packed car was steered toward a nearby beach, any beach— except for the designated nude beach, which exists in an undisclosed location.
We folded our sun-screened bodies into beach chairs, sucked in a deep breath of salty air, and poised for relaxation. With a cold drink snugged into my chair cupholder, I spotted an older man whose hips were wedged tightly into a child’s Paw Patrol beach chair.
He seemed content, and my mind wandered. Initially, I was jealous— his hips fit into a seat intended for a three-year-old. Curiosity set in, and I fixed my focus radar on this grown man as he sat peacefully in his tiny beach chair.
If I turn my head away slightly and peer from the corner of my eye, my dark sunglasses prevent the Watchee from noticing I’m watching them. Prying in anonymity— tricky, right?
I anticipated the moment he stood, helplessly unable to remove the wedged seat from his hips. Would he require extrication assistance? Would he walk to his car with a Paw Patrol child’s chair still attached? Would he circle like a dog chasing his tail?
More watching. I pondered.
Did this man choose that chair on purpose? He seemed content in his own quiet and relaxed world. His head bobbed slightly from side to side as he took in his surroundings and watched the waves. He was much more laid-back than I.
My focus diverted to a little girl munching potato chips out of a large bag. She reached deep for another chip and monitored her brothers as they dug a mostly perfect sand hole and irrigation system in the sand, pausing only to observe a random shell or crab part.
Those brothers didn’t care about chips, crashing waves, or the nearby tattooed guy using his napping pit bull terrier as a pillow. Mom and dad were busily erecting one of those small canopies that shades an area the size of two chairs and a cooler.
I missed it!
The gentleman had managed to un-wedge from the Paw Patrol chair while I was distracted by a nearby sand hole and irrigation system. The older man headed to the shoreline for a swim. I’m certain he had pushed heavily on the short armrests to accomplish the de-throning. I can’t believe I missed it!
At any rate, now I’m watching— not watching, but watching the older man take a quick swim in the cool water, fully clothed— long pants with a belt, bare feet. The empty chair boasted a little warble as it sat askew in the sand, the cartoon character easily identifiable by the fireman hat and badge.
What is the story of this man and his odd chair selection?
I couldn’t stop spying as the peaceful, tiny-chair-sitting man strolled back up to his spot, toweled off his soggy clothes, picked up the Paw Patrol beach chair, and attempted to fold it.
The fussy chair wouldn’t collapse— irreparably bent under strain. The calm man quickly abandoned his struggle to collapse the sad thing and plodded toward his car, Paw Patrol chair on one arm, damp towel and beach bag on the offset arm. How could he have known he made me smile?
That small beach spot will forever be filled with his image in my head. I realized my narrative had just walked away, the sandy hole was properly dug, the pit bull pillow had moved, and the sun was poised to set. My eyes blinked and blinked again, unprovoked by another story until this one was told.
Watching, Not Watching by Diana Warren