I was 25 years old. Young and wild, I drank like a fish and smoked as many Marlboro Lights as I possibly could. I had recently been told by my boyfriend that I was not good enough to marry. I was too fat. Too crazy. Too Ugly. Worthless.
That’s not really what he said, but it is what I heard. What he really said is, “You’re too much. You are too needy. I can’t be everything to you.”
In hindsight, he was right. I was insane. I had taken him as an emotional hostage and wanted him to fill that black hole in my soul that only God can fill. That black hole that I tried to stuff him in, along with booze, food, people and drugs, if someone offered. He’d had enough of my constant demands, drunken rages and decided to end the relationship with me.
You are probably going well, it must have started off well, right?
NOOOOOOOO! We began our relationship the day of my brother’s funeral. Dondi, my brother, committed suicide and this man was my brother’s lifelong friend. I suppose we found some comfort in having each other to grieve with and to drink with, and to try to numb the horrible pain we were both feeling at the sudden loss of Dondi. But after a year of romanticizing our relationship would blossom into a beautiful love story, giving a happy ending to a tragic beginning, it was over.
On a sweltering mid-July day, I dragged myself out of bed and drove over the Ben Sawyer Bridge to the beach at Sullivans Island. I felt like a train hit me. Hungover, dehydrated, nauseous from drinking dollar beers, about $20 worth.
I arrived at my usual spot, Station 24 on Sullivans Island. Close enough to walk to Station 22 where the beautiful people go, but far enough away from the crowd so I could sleep and sneak a beer or two and make the pounding headache stop.
I tried to find a parking spot, close to the pathway and then I slammed on the brakes.
I saw his car. At my spot at the beach.
Of all the places to go, on Sullivans Island, he was here. He didn’t go to Isle of Palms, or even to Folly. He was here. He knew this was my favorite place.
I tried to keep calm, but then it hit me…he was there for me!
My excessive calling, inappropriate threats and desperate pleas for reconciliation must have made him have second thoughts. Me, showing up at his apartment at 1 AM, wall-eyed, knee-walking drunk must have caused him to rethink this whole thing!!!
I grabbed my stuff and headed down the long, sandy pathway to the ocean. It was like I was swimming through the hot humid air, and I was drenched in sweat, and very stinky from the alcohol being released from my pores.
I was excited!! I didn’t see him at first so I set down my beach chair, and opened my little cooler and cracked open a brew and carefully poured it into a cup, so that I would fly under the radar of a pesky policeman trying to do his job. I put the cup to my lips and scanned the coastline for him.
Then I saw him. He was coming out of the water and my heart jumped. I got up, headed his way, knowing he must have seen me.
But he went to an empty chair beside another chair that was not empty. That chair contained a girl. My heart just sank. It was like time stopped. I was shocked and humiliated, paralyzed for a minute.
Then my anger took over and I charged down the beach to them.
I gave this girl the once-over. She was thin, and pale and her hair was well, ALRIGHT. Now my hair was awesome. Down to the middle of my back, dark and curly, like Alanis Morrisette, so I was told.
But she was with him.
I stood in front of him, blocking the sun, causing him to shield his eyes with his hand, and said, “Oh, Hi Dede.” He seemed surprised. And I’m like, “Really? You are surprised to see me? THIS IS MY SPOT! THIS IS STATION 24!!”
He smiled awkwardly and said “Do you know Leigh?”
Then I broke. The tears started and screamed “I don’t want to know Leigh!!!” Did this idiot think I wanted to know Leigh? Why did he know Leigh? I’m pretty sure Leigh didn’t want to know me. Leigh slid out of her chair and walked to the water.
He tried to walk me back to my chair, but I shook him off. I was wrecked. Why didn’t he love me? But more importantly, why didn’t I love me?
I gathered my things and walked the long path back up to my car, heartbroken.
I went home and saw my mom sitting in her green chair. Her feet were propped up on her old ottoman and she was reading the newspaper. She had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and she turned and said, “Where were you?”
I said, “Station 24”
I told her what happened. She offered me a smoke. I took it. It was a Vantage cigarette. Who the heck smokes Vantage? Brown filter. Handed it back to her.
She listened to me pour out my heart. She said she had the same thing happen to her, minus the hangover.
Her man was Everett, but it was she who broke up with him. I had heard Everett’s name before and knew he was Mom’s first boyfriend. Mom went on to tell me how he was a good man. Crazy about her and she was crazy about him too. Mom was in high school in 1950 and Everett was her sweet heart. He had graduated the year prior and was working for the newspaper. Mom adored him but he wanted her to marry him right away and she wasn’t ready to be married. She wanted to work and earn her own living, and maybe go to college.
Everett laid down an ultimatum, either marry him or break up and Mom let him go. Mama said that a few months after the split, she saw Everett with his new girlfriend holding hands on the beach at Station 24.
I couldn’t believe that decades earlier my Mom experienced heart break at the same spot on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. I also couldn’t believe that Mom was at one time a young girl with a broken heart.
Everett went on to marry that girl.
Mom went on to marry a handsome Air Force man whom I called Daddy.
My former boyfriend passed away in the year 2000, too young like my brother.
And I went on to become a Mama, and sober for 16 years, I went on to marry an incredible, wonderful man named Sean.
We take our boys to the beach so much that I’m convinced that salt water runs through their veins.
And our favorite spot is Station 24.