A Walk to the Beach (also known as one of the hottest, most hellish days of my life) by Jody Casella

It was a bad idea to take off my flip flops.

But I wouldn't know that until I was halfway there. Or maybe it was less than halfway. The length of the jetty was deceptive. A road of rocks stretching out toward what looked like a secluded beach.

I'd made it ten feet, stumbling and slipping, before I shed the flip flops, tucking them between a wedge of rocks, hoping no one would steal them. My boyfriend ambled along easily beside me. Sneakered. His T-shirt off and tied around his head.

It wasn't really that hot of a day. August in Cape Cod is pleasant. Breezy. But on the rocks, sun beating on our backs, a cloudless sky, it was starting to feel a tad warm. Far ahead the beach was a strip of sand holding up the sky.

Maybe they'd be selling cokes up there or ice cream.

I was an idiot.

In my defense I had just turned eighteen. My boyfriend was seventeen. Now our ages seem wild to me. That we were on the Cape alone. That we'd talked our parents into letting us go camping there for a week. We had no sunscreen.

No bottled waters. (Did they make bottled waters back then? I can only remember searching out water fountains.) No credit cards. No cell phones.

Provincetown was intimidating. A mix of expensive shops and sights totally foreign to our small-dying-factory-town-in-Connecticut upbringing. We couldn't afford the ferry rides or whale watching excursions. We tried to be cool and not gawk at the same sex couples strolling hand in hand.

Walking the rock jetty seemed like the only fun, free thing to do.

The sun pounded against my face. My shoulders. The top of my head. I was most definitely getting sunburned. But I was only thinking about my feet. Carefully stepping, climbing. The rocks sharp in places. Slippery in others. I began hallucinating cans of coke. How long was this freaking jetty anyway?

My feet were really hurting. The point where I realized things were getting dangerous, it seemed smarter to keep going toward the beach than turn around and head back.

What I hadn't counted on was the sand. Not a strip after all. But a long expanse.

A desert.

When I finally reached it, I ran, my feet smoldering, my vision tunneling. Sky. Sand. Water. Water. Water. My soles scorched, numb. I am not exaggerating when I say that my feet sizzled when at last I charged into the ocean.

The water on Cape Cod is ice cold.

Too bad you can't drink it.

Whatever. I planned to roll around in it. Splash there forever nursing my poor feet. Forget college looming. Forget the impending separation from my boyfriend, who truth be told, was an asshole.

At that moment he was tromping toward me with a stricken expression on his face.

"Come here," I said. "Swim with me."

His eyes were wide, panicked. He was fumbling with his T-shirt, untying the knot, slipping it over his sunburned shoulders. "No," he said. "We have to go."

I started to argue. At the same time the world came into focus. There were no quaint shops selling ice-cold cokes or ice creams. No little kids making sand castles.

There were only naked men. Pretty much everywhere. A couple strolled in front of us in the water, waved, smiled at us, the stupid teenaged tourists.

We didn't talk on the way back. I dissociated myself away from my homophobic boyfriend. The rocks. My seared feet. The blisters bubbling up on my eyelids. I imagined I was already at the other end of the jetty eating a popsicle. Back at the campsite. Back home.

Away at college. In a different life.

With any luck it would be a life without permanently damaged feet skin and swollen eyelids.

But honestly, I had no idea what I would find at the end of the jetty, at the end of the summer. I kept stepping forward, watching my feet slap down and down.

(The 1.25 mile-long jetty at Provincetown, MA. Photo credit: Biomes Blog


  1. Great post and great writing, Jody! I admire your talent at honing in on quiet, yet life-changing, moments in your life.

    1. Thanks, Jen. Mostly it's just me trying to figure out why I've done so many idiotic things over the years :)

  2. I love this--I think I've been to that same beach (or one just like it) in Wellfleet...stupid things are par for the course, right?

  3. After an experience like that, how could you NOT become a writer.


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