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  • "Shoes!"

    Everyone dove under the table to grab flip flops and sandals before they floated away with the tide. The water didn't always make it as far as the tables pushed together but when it did, our chairs sank further into the sand, dangling hems drenched and dripped and everyone dove with the laughter that accompanied the cry.

    "Shoes!"

    It had been a particularly miserable day. Hot, sticky and sick, I found most of it downright painful.

    When we stopped at Food City to pick up supplies for a couple of days at the beach, I moaned in despair.

    "This is the worst I have ever felt in my life," I thought.

    I was not one to use superlatives lightly. I thought of other times I had been ill, in Tanzania, the Turkish coast, with strep as a kid.

    I said it out loud, "This is the worst I have ever felt in my life."

    "What can we do?" a friend asked and I shook my head.

    "I will be all right. We are almost there."

    Leaving the bus helped. Everything that had coiled and heated to the point of boiling cooled and dispersed on the crashing surf. Cocktails at the pool overlooking the sea. Bungalows filled with sand. Braai on the beach with South African friends.

    At a bar close to the hotel, we learned the shoe cry. At the one beside it, two of the girls talked with Spaniards as a shirtless Argentine in board shorts danced and ran into the surf with a different girl every half hour or so.

    I borrowed shoes to go to the bathroom; mine were "at home" (my bungalow on the beach) and I walked barefoot with sand and water between my toes, knee struggling toward normal with painkillers and gin.

    As others ran to dance to Rage Against the Machine, I stayed on the beach to watch and listen. To feel. To be. I stayed to write the night in my mind. The night and the stars, the breeze and the waves. The music. Sand. Beer. Borrowed flip flops and dodgy bathrooms. Using the word "dodgy."

    We talked and laughed, under the stars, with sand under our toes and crashing waves at our heels, and when the water came, we dove forward together with the cry.

    "Shoes!"
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