Rubber Bands

Apryl Lee

Once a year, we gather out on the beach at Franklin’s inlet, at the very end of Dune Road. We all bring our canvas totes, our monogrammed picnic blankets, our reusable grocery bags of wine and summer salads, fancy cheeses. We bring lists of things to talk about—infant sleep schedules and preschool selection, husband’s promotion, celebrity who died tragically, restrictive diet based on ancient culturejust in case we can’t find anything to say.

But once we are all together, breathing one another’s air, we dash onto the sand stretching, screaming, snapping like rubber bands shot up to the moon. We uncork wines, eat fruits with our hands, and lie in laps, our sandy, pedicured toes pointed in the air. There are five of us women, but it is hard to tell who is who when we are in a cluster.

I want to remember to mention that bargain deal on all-natural laundry detergent I found at an unlikely place, husband’s second career, standardized testing flaws, pelvic floor exercises, elderberry syrup, and that I’m taking a pottery class.

But instead, as I’m nestled in in a lap having my head pet, I say, I think I’m going bald. I find clumps of hair in the shower drain. The size of hamsters.

We all agree that this is something that happens at our age. My friend says, We are just shedding our youth. And who needs it?

I was stupid as shit in my youth.

You were.

We were. We slosh out into the ocean, this little arm of the sea, up to our thighs, skirts hiked up around our waists.

I always forget my list of talking point.

But this time, I can’t forget to mention the child’s acceptance to second choice school, the upcoming senate vote and environmental concern, the meditation retreat I am treating myself to, food item once thought to be full of health benefits now proven to be cancer-causing, the divorce.

God, we are old, I say.

We’re old friends.

Well, older than yesterday.

That’s true, says my old friend.

We drink to that. I think of my sons, nearly men now, and how I thought that when they were grown, I’d get to be someone else.

Here I am. Fuck it all! I shout, and my friends join in and we all curse and someone lights a joint and we bounce around again. Stretch, snap, straight to the moon. We let gravity pull us down to Earth and shoot back again. We are covered in the moon and stars.

I’m letting my hair go white, says my friend.

I look at her roots to see those sparkling strands taking over like gentle, silver cobwebs. Here’s to being old, I say. And wise. And balding. And white-headed women.

Sundown is a creamsicle, orange and fluffy and we are unleashed. We hoot and twirl in our skirts and motherly sundresses. A group of surfers traipsing through the sand yell, Show us your tits!, and we do, forgetting to check if they are our sons or the boyfriends of our daughters. We lift our shirts and bras and flash our breasts as the last stripe of citrus-glow daylight disappears below the water.

Remember to discuss: child’s engagement, cruises I want to take, retirement, volunteering at the food bank, essential oils for my shoulder, great loves lost, and bourbon.

Stretch, snap. We sizzle back to our blankets, our berries, our lap pillows, the dying wine, huddling like embers as night falls on top of us. The ocean rolls in, a velvety blanket covering the shore.

We say good night. See you again in real life. I brush the moon crust from my thinning hair, dust the star skins from skirt. My list of talking points flutters to the sand. Farewell, we say, and we let gravity pull us home.

Apryl Lee is the cofounder and host of Halfway There, a reading series in Montclair, NJ. Her short stories and essays have been published at Necessary FictionWord RiotUnderwater New York, and The Feminist Breeder. Her screenplays and films have been selected for festivals including the New Hampshire Film Expo, New Filmmakers at NYC's Anthology Film Archives, the IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Conference, and as a finalist for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriter’s Lab. She teaches sceenwriting at Seton Hall University and is an MFA graduate of the fiction program at Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently working on her first novel and lives with her husband and son in New Jersey.

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