Beach Buddy

Illustration by Pete Ryan

You might already know this, but Nick Cave does not make a great beach buddy. He’s really great at other things, but in this matter, he is not. For one thing, he and you are both quite pale, so you will have to share the SPF 100 sunscreen and he will use most of it up, trust me. And after he is done spraying and spraying and bitching about knowing he should not use this much spray, he will gently toss it your way without even looking, right into the sand. The nozzle will become plugged with a tiny nugget of glass and you will try and spray yourself, but the shard will triangulate the spray into small drizzles and beads of liquid. Every time you try to use it, the spray will move away, like it is not covering you on purpose. You are most likely to burn between your armpit and your breasts, streaks of missed areas like a pink, grabby hand.

            After you have tried and failed to protect yourself, you may realize that you have left for the beach too late, that others have claimed all the best spots and you will not get anywhere near the rocky outcropping or a palm tree. You will have to be in the middle, like the rest of everybody. This will infuriate Nick and is the reason he will not talk to you. You know what he is thinking. If you’d only figured out how to use the new coffee maker sooner, and if you’d packed the sandwiches last night, like he’d asked, you could have scored the palm tree. You will not try to explain that this could have been the work of two people, not one, because you remember that you do a better job anyway; he puts on too much mustard and uses only bologna. Also, he was busy.

            Every night a long line of subjects come to offer their wrists and necks and sexual organs to Nick. After careful consideration, he turns each one down, but in such a way that they still love him. They are allowed to pass by the aging moss-green velveteen couch and dab a bit of bronze paint on his body, until he truly does appear a god. This happens between nine and eleven, as long as he is not out touring or with his mates. During this time, you can busy yourself with reading, or make music of your own, using household objects like dinnerware and pots. Later, as you sponge-bathe the golden flecks from his aging body, you note new folds near the neck and the back of the elbows, and of course the stomach area (which cannot be discussed). It must be hard to be adored by so many. It must be frustrating and infuriating and maddening and excruciatingly lovely that so many should weep because of your voice, your eyebrows.

            Nick will not carry any of the bags to the beach or even a towel, which he will let you spread for him, securing it at the edges with smooth and flat rocks. When you have had enough of suntanning (or burning in bright red smudges, which you can already see) you might try kicking some sand on his back, because he’s already mad anyway, right? Lack of sleep and all that. And he will rise up and roar and chase you around the people on the beach, and you can laugh and laugh because you have always been the fastest. It doesn’t matter that he has no clothes on because everyone can see he is Nick Cave — who doesn’t know? He can do as he likes. Eventually you might say, Let’s go and move towards the waves, your modest red fifties-style suit cutting into your flesh at the tops of your legs, making them bulge out slightly. You might wonder what Nick sees in you.

            When you go to the beach with Nick and do all these things he asks you to do, you might find yourself in a wave, looking back to the shore, all the people like ants scurrying on the yellow edges. This will lodge fearful words deep inside your throat — oh no, you are caught in a rip current, and where is Nick? But then you will see him, smiling at last, smiling and riding a gargantuan manta ray. He will give you his one hundred per cent real smile where you can see the gold-capped tooth at the side and the broken one at the other side, and his eyes will gleam with pure happiness, and he will reach down and pull you on with him. You will place your arms around the saggy part you don’t discuss and dive down deep, deep into a swirling mass of blue, dotted with flecks of dancing light. Later you might come up for air, or you might not. You’ll have to decide, right at the last moment.

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