Context: In college, I was going to do a minor in writing — non-fiction writing to be precise. I ended up dropping it but enjoyed all the classes I took leading up to it. Here’s one piece of the many I’ve written (slightly edited since!) The one-word theme for the assignment: “write something spritiual.”
Reading Jia Tolentino recently inspired my creative non-fiction writing days. I’ll attempt to write in this style slightly more in the coming weeks. Enjoy.
Drops of Vodka tricke down our fingers as the four of us toast to the night. The generous Mexican servers at the restaurant sponsor our last round of drinks. Gracias, amigos. We then tipsily hail a cab to bring us to our next destination.
We make our way to the beachfront of Papaya Playa. The area is illuminated by fake candles inside paper bags, lights streaming from the bar, Tiki torches on the shore and a bonfire’s dying glow. It is almost romantic save for the booming party music and garish conversations of drunken foreigners.
Eventually, Haenah decides that dancing offbeat around one of the torches is a good idea. The alcohol floods my senses and I decide to take my slippers off and join her. We flail our arms appropriately as we pretend we are fire, wind and water.
Gaby and Tiger scurry further down the beach and they scream at us to join them. We get through a huge mass of washed up seaweed before we can feel the surprisingly warm water splash on our feet. It is quieter and darker here; I can now hear the crash of the waves and notice the stars painting the sky. They seem to twinkle in surprising abundance on this particular night.
We walk down the shoreline, further away from the ruckus of the real world and into one the four of us momentarily inhabit.
“Let’s go naked!” Haenah starts to strip off her shorts. Earlier today, she lost her backpack with her wallet, glasses, laptop, camera and passport. Tonight, she basks in her growing nakedness before she takes on the stresses of bureaucratic affairs tomorrow.
“Oh, no thanks...” I am still sober enough to be my conservative self. Everyone follows my example.
We all find each other’s hands and continue our walk, taking a step, and then another, and another, each one coming quicker than the one before. The sand is damp and soft and invites our feet to its caress, allowing us to step faster and faster until we break off into a chorused run. The open track compels me to glide quicker across the even pathway that seems to have been paved just for us. I do not feel my legs. I do not feel inhibited. I am freely soaring over the delicate terrain, racing against the swift winds. Perhaps I am flying.
I break into laughter from the thrill of the run or at the silliness of what we just did. I slow my pace, as does everyone else. We calm down, crane our necks and gaze at the stars in stillness.
“Wow. There are so many. It takes so long for these stars to form and for us to be able to see it but, wow, there they are.” Tiger breaks the streak of silence.
“Can you believe humanity’s only been here for a little dot span of the entire life of the universe?” Gaby squats down and plays with the damp grains. “Guys, touch the sand. Be part of the earth. It’s amazing how there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand. I wonder what happens to us after life, if our ancestors are hidden among the grains.” She talks a lot when in her inebriated state.
I am silently sinking into the shore, the sand seeping through the spaces between my toes, the earth engulfing my feet.
“Did I ever tell you that I believe in reincarnation?” I say while attempting to find Orion’s belt.
“Really?” Gaby replies.
“Yeah. But it’s weird. I believe in heaven, too.”
“Yeah, same. That’s why we should do good things in this world. So we can be up there and maybe become stars, too.”
We stare in silence. There is nothing especially profound stemming from our conversations, but the quiet amplifies the intensity of our thoughts.
“Let’s hold hands.” Haenah urges us. When we connect in full circle, I realize how naked I am, and how unusual it is for me to be comfortable with it.
“Okay, tell the person to your left one wish you have for the person to your right. I’ll start.” Haenah screams at my ear, thinking she is quiet. I talk too softly into Tiger’s thinking he understands what I say.
After we finish, he decides he wants to do push-ups. We all cheer him on as he attempts to do about ten, the most his intoxicated self can muster. His sober counterpart would be ashamed. He falls to the ground in defeat and snickers insanely. We join him in his extremely joyous state, satisfying the urge to laugh for no good reason. We quiet down and look at the stars once again.
“We’re so young. Think about how many more years we have to live, how many more adventures we’ll have together,” Gaby says.
“We’re also so small,” Haenah interjects. “The sky is so big but we’re all so small in this vast, enormous universe.” Looking up at the stars and imagining how futile our lives are compared to the massiveness of celestial bodies lends itself to gloominess. But I don’t bother. I instead think about the floating seaweed that wraps around my ankles, how the four of us share this same sensation and how that connects us even more. I feel the swoosh of the wind as it tingles the small of my back and reminds me just how bare I am under the gaze of the stars. We stare up in delight at them. I wonder if they are staring back at us, laughing at the sight of four drunken individuals in their underwear running animatedly, laughing crazily and thinking they are talking so profoundly about life.
Even if the stars weren’t watching, apparently someone was. We see a flashing light from behind us. It comes closer and we make out a man in a blue uniform with a badge. We start to pace back to the party worried about getting in trouble. But I don’t want to run so I tell everyone to relax and walk. We’ll be fine. I enjoyed the sand too much to be running out of its embrace so quickly.