The Beach Diaries – Post-Credit Scene
* It’s October the first. Autumn. October, and essentially the hottest day of the year – thirty crazy degrees. But I’ve already mourned for the summer. This is like seeing a crush in the street after convincing yourself you’ve successfully spent the last six months getting over her, and now it’s back to square one.
* Everything feels strange. It’s like a movie where someone asks “What’s the last thing you remember?” and we slowly piece together how everyone was just teleported here from their beds by aliens, in some eerie facsimile of paradise, to keep us quiet before they drop us into some giant alien mincing machine concealed beneath the waves. October is for lashing rain and horror movies, but there’s just sweat and sandcastles, bikinis and splashing. It all feels like a trap.
* All the usual sights are here. A faded Sammy Hagar tour shirt on the back of an old dad. Two lesbians the size of camper vans exchanging tender kisses by the waves. A man with the Red Dwarf logo tattooed across his pec. But the odd sense of “This shouldn’t be” lingers. The beach is absolutely heaving, with as many people as I’ve ever seen, but everything’s packed away, with the shutters down on the booths for shellfish and Littlehampton rock, the path for the little train sitting empty, and even the lifeguard shack craned away and put into storage until next summer. The one hangover from the tourist season is the deckchair man, who smelled some bonus money and doles out windbreakers like it was July, just running through the motions, like a widow who instinctively turns to crack an in-joke to her long dead husband when their favourite song comes on the radio.
* When I was 18/19, during the winter seasons I’d come to the beach a lot at night, and sit in the shelters, looking out to sea and listening to the distant clang of moored boats bucking on the river. The whole place had the feel of a creepy abandoned funfair where an evil, disfigured clown lived, ready to leap out of the winkle shack and skewer a candyfloss stick straight through your forehead. These days, without the badly carved and weathered Mickey Mouse and nutcracker soldiers peering from the wall of the old Smarts with their dead eyes, it’s all a bit art deco, and you’re more likely to be savaged in the shadows by the food critic from Time Out than by Bozo the Stabby Clown.
* Dogs run the sands with wild abandon, now in that October-April window where they’re allowed to roam freely. The dogs, who’ve only known free-strolling walks in the pissy Autumn rain, will talk about this day for years to come. “I swear, man, it was, like, thirty, thirty-five degrees! I did so much pooping on the sand!”
* University-age girls lay together in groups of three or more, everywhere you look; expensive toys in the window of a Victorian shop on Christmas Eve, glass dirtied with the hand and nose-prints of urchins like me who know they couldn’t save for that in 10,000 lifetimes, and even if they could, such delicate, well-fashioned things are not meant for inelegant fingers like ours. I think I’m one of those guys whose image of women has been warped by the internet, as they all put me in mind of the kind of girls you see on Tumblr, posing naked in the bathroom mirror with an iPhone, with a confident casualness that says “Everyone is 20, naked, and hot, except you. And this picture, taken for someone else, and posted up on a public website, is as close as you’re ever going to get.” I think I’d rather not know those girls exist at all. Their presence today seems rude, like going into a homeless shelter and showing all the tramps episodes of MTV Cribs on an iPad 2.
Three hot girls walk by, all big sunglasses and catwalk legs.
A coal-faced boy from the workhouse lays a wooden train on its side and pats it roughly with his hand, because he doesn’t know how to play.
* It really is Bizarro Day on Hot October. An old couple refer to me as “that gentleman,” (although one look through my notepad will dispel that notion real quick), and someone even yells “Bless you!” at me when I sneeze. And then there’s the paragraph that follows this one. It’s like when it snows for the first time, the novelty aspect is enough for people to actually speak to their neighbours without spitting at them first. I don’t even know that today is ‘canon’ in the Beach Diaries narrative. It’s like a single comic in between two longer arcs, written by a guest author. Maybe God went away for the week and left everything in charge of his cool, yet wayward and flighty younger brother, Rod (Belding).
* Someone passing by very obviously eyes me up and down, smiles, and then shoots me a wink. It’s a twenty-something Mediterranean looking guy, hand in hand with another man. Just twice in my entire 32 years, including today, I’ve had moments that could (in the very loosest of terms) be described as someone hitting on me. Both of those were men. This is the first under the age of fifty, though. The stats don’t lie; 2-0; I’d definitely have made for a better gay than I do a straight, but unfortunately, Ryan Reynolds and Alexander Skarsgård aside (and if either of those guys winked at me from the dunes, I’d probably have presented myself like a baboon on a car bonnet at the safari), I’m just not leaning that way.
I smile back at the tanned young twink, and it’s like a brief window into what it’s like to be those other guys you see everywhere, parading up and down the same promenade as me, the promenade of life, flirting back and forth all day with Tumblr girls that giggle and smile as they catch their eye – that weird dance of human sexuality. I’m not often on the end of this kinda thing – like I said, this is literally only incident number two, ever – but I can’t lie, it’s pretty sweet. If I had a better phone, I dare say I’d go home with a confident swagger in my step and take a picture of myself with my cock out for the internet. Bless you, flirty young gay. Truly, this is Bizarro Day.
* Samuel L. Jackson approaches me on the pier. “I’m putting a team together…”