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Under the Pier by Juliann Wetz

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  • My son took a few days leave from the Air Force and joined us for a vacation at the beach. We frolicked and played in the Atlantic’s waves. We built sandcastles and searched for shells. Then a storm rolled in and we took cover under the pier.

    As we stood there with a bucket of sand and beach towels draped around our necks, my son said softly that he’d talked to his dad, and that he’d been taking cover under a pier lately, too. The cops came and shooed him out because he’d pitched a tent there. He is now technically a vagrant.

    I got quiet, unsure whether I should feel guilty for enjoying the extravagance of a beach vacation knowing that my ex-husband now sleeps under a pier. My son said he was going to send his dad a care package with a tarp and some MRE’s and other things he thought he might need. I felt a flicker of anger that he’d put my son in a position of worrying so much about his father. But it quickly faded to a deeper sense of sadness and I thought I might send him something, too.

    As the rain passed and the sun emerged again, our moods brightened and we continued our seaside holiday. But my mind kept drifting back to Eddie. My son looks so much like him, it was hard not to think about him and wonder/hope that maybe this episode of prolonged homelessness might be his rock bottom. But then I thought of all the other things that should have already been his rock bottom and found his beach living mild in comparison. I don’t expect that this will be the thing that makes him quit drinking.

    When I think of him living on the beach, I cannot help but also think back to our first date twenty-seven years ago as underage teenagers who went to a bonfire on the beach. That night, he kissed me for luck and went in search of beer.
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