I’ve never been much of a “natural phenomenon” person. Plant-based miracle neck creams and diet pills excluded.
That all changed when, on day 77 of quarantine, my husband Todd mentioned a post he saw on social media about these things called bioluminescent waves happening at the beach. Without even asking what they were, what they could do to us, what this entailed, I jumped at the chance to get the fuck out of my house. “We’re going to see the wave things!” I shouted, tossing aside the spatula I’d been shoveling spaghetti into my mouth with.
I quickly changed into clean(er) sweatpants, you know, “in case we get pulled over,” underwear too (same reason), gathered Todd and the kids and we headed toward the ocean. Driving South on the 405 freeway, it was our first outing as a family in over two months, the first time the four of us were in a car together and yet it felt so… normal.
But then, looking back at the kids from the front passenger seat, I noticed that Jesse was wearing his mask, and I screamed. “Please take your mask off in the car! It’s very apocalyptic!” He removed the mask, barely looking up from his iPad; his sister’s face was lit up by hers. iPads had become their lifelines. I was reminded that we were in the middle of a pandemic and there was nothing normal about this.
When we got there, the parking lot was closed, as was the beach. Not because it was 9 PM but because we were on lockdown. Todd found a spot on the shoulder of the road behind a long line of other, illegally parked cars along the PHC. It looked like everyone was using the wave things as an excuse to get out. I pried the iPads out of their chubby, greasy little hands and we got out of the car. There was a light cool breeze; the smell of seaweed mixed with the Tide laundry detergent in my mask; under that a faint hint of the spaghetti sauce I’d been eating.
It was dark. The only light coming from the distant fluorescent lights on top of a power plant and the full moon added a creepiness factor and I started to wonder if I really needed to leave the house that badly?
Todd led us down a steep, grassy hill, away from our cars and toward the blackness that we assumed was the beach. Jesse and Phoebe who have become indoor cats by now, not used to the elements, straggled behind, moaning and grunting.
Phoebe asked if she’d be home in time to facetime with Zoe. “I don’t want her to be mad at me!” her whine muffled by her mask. “What about me?! What if I’m mad at you??” I lifted my mask to shout.
I followed Todd, stepping over a low metal fence. “We’re trespassing!” Jesse’s shout muffled by his mask. “We are having family time and seeing the wave things!!!” I lifted my mask to shout again. “Don’t be ungrateful!”
I wanted to go home. I wanted more spaghetti.
“Hey look,” Todd said from behind me. I turned and looked in the direction in which he was pointing and saw a bright neon blue tipped wave hit the shore and retreated, fading into blackness. My eyes went as wide as they possibly could; my jaw dropped and I smiled, awestruck. “Wow! That is SO cool!” I said, like a little kid.
They were everywhere. The whole ocean seemed to be lit up in neon blue.
Jesse and Phoebe bolted toward the water. Todd and I followed. With every step, my Birkenstocks filled with cool, dry sand which made my skin crawl. I too had become an indoor cat.
Getting closer to the water, the thunderous sound of waves crashing on the beach got louder and louder, every so often overpowered by the chop chop of police helicopters, circling above, warning us to keep our distance from each other. “If you’re going to trespass, at least stay six feet apart.”
I looked around and in the shadows, lining the beach, were masked spectators who like me, were standing motionless, arms folded, mesmerized by nature just doing its thing.
It was like a scene from a sci-fi movie. Or a pandemic. ❏
Liz Astrof hasn’t been to a mall in nine months.
Photo by The Guardian