I was driving to the coast when I hurt my back. If you’re of a certain age, and you sit in a car seat long enough, you can end up with a back problem. “Great,” I thought, “a week of crab-walking the beach.”
My back going out was the bad news, but there was some good news too.
I was able to quickly locate a grocery store and buy a bottle of Ibuprofen and a bag of frozen peas. I popped two Ibuprofen in my mouth with a big gulp of water, and I placed the cold peas behind my lower back in the driver’s seat. Soon, I was on the road again and feeling better.
I love going to the ocean—as only someone who lives inland can. It’s always a shock to drive over that last coastal hill and see the broad, blue Pacific stretching before me, a massive infinity pool, no end in sight. I rolled the car window down to smell the humid air and hear the waves crashing against the shore. A line from a nineteen-oh-two poem by John Masefield came to mind: “I must go down to the sea again…”
My vacation rental was a cottage on a crested hill up at least two flights of stairs from the parking lot. With my back still stiff and sore, the wisest course was to take several trips loading my luggage up. Fortunately, there was a hand rail. I took a few steps at a time carrying my first load, occasionally rubbing my aching back against the railing like a cat does its owner’s leg. When I finally got to the cottage stoop I plopped my bag down, and with my camera strap hanging off one shoulder, entered the key code to unlock the door. I tried the code several times, but the door wouldn’t budge. Below me I heard someone coming up the stairs.
“Hello!” he called. “Are you the renter?”
“Yes!” I said, “I can’t seem to get this door unlocked. Can you help me?”
“I know it’s a little tricky,” the man said as he came up beside me on the stoop. He demonstrated how to double-tap the code in to get the door open. “Do you want to try tapping the code again while I’m standing here to make sure you get it right?”
He seemed very thoughtful, though a bit scruffy-looking. His long hair was braided down his back and his face had several piercings. Apparently, he was part of the cleaning staff. He was back to take pictures of their cleaning job to send to the rental agency.
I carried my big suitcase up last. I pulled and dragged it over the lip of each step. The cleaner/photographer came out of the house when he saw me struggling and said, “Oh jeez! Stop! You’re going to hurt yourself. Let me help you carry your suitcase.”
“Thank you!” I gasped. “I’m not usually such a cripple, but I hurt my back on the way here. I didn’t realize my rental would be up two flights of stairs.”
“Yes, people want an ocean view so these hills are covered with rental houses. You might want to take an Advil for your back. I know when my back goes out that’s what I do.”
I nodded as the photographer disappeared into the kitchen to take one last photo. Once I heard him leave out the back door, I opened a couple of windows facing the ocean, and then fell on the sofa, exhausted. I stared dazedly at my pile of belongings on the floor in the middle of the room. My eye lids grew heavy, and I was on the verge of napping when it occurred to me something was missing. I got up from the couch and began rifling through the luggage pile.
It was my camera! I carried my camera up the stairs on my first trip. It was gone!
I paused a moment as realization and disappointment washed over me. The nice photographer stole my camera. Of course he did. That was the bad news. I stood up slowly, careful with my bad back, and felt like crying. Then, an ocean breeze blew through the window, and I heard the distinctive cry of sea gulls. There was still some good news. The sea was calling… I could go down to the sea.
All photos: Diana Hooley