When I was young my family went to Ocean City Maryland every summer. There’s a boardwalk along the beach, and we’d walk different parts of it every evening as the sun set and the beach cleared out and the lights came up. I remember: french fries with vinegar, terrible haunted house rides that we went on multiple times, tourist shit-shops filled with pink & fluorescent yellow t-shirts (it was the 80s), sea shells with glued-on googly eyes, watching sand artists sculpt inspirational bible quotes into their castles. It was the best.
There was a little shuttle you could ride if you were tired from walking or wanted to skip to different parts of the boardwalk. One night we walked all the way down to the very end, and decided to take the shuttle back to our hotel. A few minutes into the ride a pair of young couples got on, cramming into the seat behind us. Probably what happened is my dad started making dumb jokes and they laughed politely, but what I remember is all of us having the best time on the ride home. My mom and dad laughing with them, everyone saying funny comments about things we saw along the way, strangers immediately connecting and bonding, on just the perfect night, the best time, driving very slowly along the beach at night.
Eventually we came to a stop and the couples climbed off the shuttle. I called out: “See you back at the hotel!” and they stopped and turned and my mom had to explain, No, they’re not staying with us, they’re going to do other things.
And I was like: We’re never going to see them again? Like, ever? I was not just distraught or sad but immediately inconsolable. These were our friends. How are these people who we just met and who we like so much, who we’ve had so much fun with tonight, going to disappear from our lives forever? We’re all ok with that? We’re all ok with going off into the night and never seeing each other again?
But of course that’s what happened. They walked off and we went back to our hotel and I’m probably the only person in the story who remembers any part of it happening, and none of it really matters, except that I still feel the sense of missing those people whose faces I don’t even remember as acutely as I did back then.
And I would love for the ending of this story to be: And that’s when I decided I didn’t need my heart anymore. But I do. I hate it, but I do.