When Buddy asked me to spend an August afternoon at a nude beach, I laughed. One of the things I love about him is how comfortable he is with my blindness. Most people avoid referring to it, as if I might be offended if they noticed. Buddy makes jokes. On our first date, we went to a restaurant and I ordered steak and potatoes. He said what he liked best about dating a blind woman was that he could steal her fries.
I tried convincing him I count them.
So when he asked me if I wanted to join him, I immediately searched my mental files for the punch line to a joke about a blind woman at a nude beach.
But he was serious. “It’s required by California law to go to a nude beach at least once. Although you qualify for a special dispensation from the volleyball game.”
I told Buddy I’d do it, if he promised to describe the men. He agreed, but warned me he wouldn’t be honest if he didn’t measure up.
The nudity thing didn’t bother me. Too much. I work out and am proud of my body. At least it feels firm. My stomach is flat, my rear doesn’t jiggle and my breasts still defy gravity. I know this won’t last much longer now that I’m nearing thirty. This might well be my last chance to strut my stuff.
So I took a deep breath and agreed to go, secretly hoping for an August snowstorm to hit southern California.
We got to the beach parking lot a little before noon. Buddy, who had gone a number of times before, said, “We’re about a hundred yards from the beach. We’ll walk up a little incline before we walk down four steps to the beach area.” He was getting good at describing the lay of the land.
“We have to go through a clothing-obsessed section before we get to the clothing-optional beach. So for God’s sake, woman, keep your clothes on.”
Buddy chatters when he’s nervous. I talk less. I didn’t say anything or even offer a reassuring laugh at his clothing-obsessed joke. He slid the cooler from the back of the car. We had packed sandwiches, slices of watermelon and beer. A lot of beer.
“Do you have the blanket?” I asked.
“Sure do,” he said. “See?”
Sometimes he overdoes it with his jokes.
He took my arm and I unfolded my walking stick. I feel guilty when he carries everything and takes my free arm. But when we’re in an unfamiliar area, I appreciate it. Soon I tapped and counted four wooden steps and felt the squishiness of the sand under my sandals. I took them off. With my bare feet sinking into the sand and scratching between my toes, I felt as if my heart had decided to stop backing up my body and go solo. My knees wobbled to the rhythm.
After a short walk, he tapped on what sounded like metal. It was a sign, he said. “Warning. You may encounter nudity beyond this point.” I took his word for it.
We walked a bit more until he found a good spot, or so he said. I heard him plop down the cooler and felt the breeze as he spread out the blanket. Judging from the sounds of people talking and laughing and playing music, I could tell the beach was crowded; the combination of salt air and coconut-scented suntan lotion wafted through the air, making me hungry. Now my stomach gurgled to the pounding of my heart. I had become a one-woman band.
I heard the tugging sound of Buddy unbuckling his pants, the metallic rip of his zipper and the rustle of his shorts as they slid down his legs. I stood there wondering if it was too late to change my mind.
“You don’t have to get undressed right away if you’re uncomfortable,” he said.
With that, I made my decision. No way would I back down from a challenge. I slipped off my T-shirt and bra, feeling like I was releasing the girls from bondage. I took a deep breath and stripped off my shorts and panties in one quick motion.
A warm breeze whispered over my body. I felt strangely calm and excited at the same time. I already spent a lifetime getting over feeling self-conscious. Putting down my walking stick, I grabbed for Buddy’s hand. I felt sexy, as if all the men were turning to see the naked blind woman.
Then a chill came over me. “Buddy, if this is one of your jokes and I’m in the middle of a children’s playground, I’ll kill you.”
Buddy laughed. We sat down on our blanket. “You want a beer?”
“I know this sounds silly,” I said, “but I want a slice of watermelon.” I didn’t need sight to sense he was looking at me funny. “You know how when you eat watermelon, you have to be careful not to dribble it on your clothes? I want to eat watermelon the way I did when I was a kid, before I cared about that.”
He handed me a slice and I attacked it, letting the cold juice drip from my lips and tickle its way between my breasts. I could hear Buddy slurping at his slice, like a four year-old.
“Mmm,” I said. “I swear I can see this. Two naked people slobbering over watermelon. That’s what I call a California summer photo.”
I turned my ear towards music in the distance, trying to make out the song. Buddy claims when I do this my ears perk up like a dog’s. He assures me he finds it cute.
The surf splashed and swooshed on the shore. An airplane thundered in the distance. I leaned back on the blanket and closed my eyes.
“You want me to describe what I see?” Buddy asked.
“No need,” I said. “I can see just fine.”
Wayne Scheer has been nominated for five Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Net awards. He’s published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories. His short story “Zen and the Art of House Painting” was made into a short film.