I had forgotten how tossing a frisbee can feel like dancing

Essay Feb 2, 2023

Death pays a visit to the beach

CW: su*c*de, anti-queer v*olence

Todos los relatos de amor y terror para el mundo

— M

We will meet at the beach, one party with a quart of ice cream in hand and the other bearing an army of little spoons. When the bright yellow lid comes off the tub, the cookies and cream are revealed to be more cookies, more cream, than any of us have ever seen before: the ice cream at that point, right between liquid and solid, nearly sea foam, piled high with crumbled oreos, a landscape of chocolate crumbs. Did the minimarket vendor make this himself, then pour it into the supermarket-brand container? How are these cookies so cookie? It must be the beach town special edition.

The mosquito takes a turn at each of our beds, buzzing from one corner to the next. I can tell where in the room it must be by the sounds of my cousins’ tossing. Benja writhes and smashes at the bug, though I think he’s still asleep. I’m next, and as the whine nears my ear, Tebi begins to snore and then talk. Never quite this side of intelligible, the phrases dissolve into humphs and readjustments. I lie still, one arm out of my covers as bait, the other ready to slap a vein as soon as I feel the sucker land for a drink. Imagine it carrying a little of each of our blood into the others, binding, night after night, our triangle of beds. I slap my face uselessly. It must be bothering Tebi now, because he’s stopped snoring and is turning over again, so I take the opportunity to cool down some— a leg out of the covers on this side, an arm at ease out on the other.

The sand is not quite sand and not quite gravel, an in-between of pebbles and glass and horseshit and dried seaweed that after some running back and forth begins to sting the soles of our feet. But for moments we enter a different state; we are dancing. The plastic disc twirls in the hand then sails off, wobbling then gathering wind then arriving, as though it were inevitable, into another’s grasp. A moment of tension and coil, of reading movement before a leap propels a body to its full length and again, off disc goes, instinct compensating for a greater gust. The frisbee slips just through fingers miscalculating the catch. Then, hobbling on suddenly tender toes, the catcher becomes thrower again. A forehand toss this time, which means the hand faces outward, holds the edge of the disc lightly, means the arm bends back to the side of the body and then sweeps around to push all through the wrist, look up, snap, release, follow-through and watch another throw hit the wind wrong and divebomb into the ground.

But at times, it feels like we’re dancing and the frisbee is just this energy passing between fingers, a moving promise to keep playing, to stay present a little longer with each other in this silly game of bodies.

Twenty minutes up the coast from where I sunbathe, my friend paces around his dark living room, thinking about dying again. His neighbor is back on the pipe and her girls are a thread away from the foster system. They were all going to spend New Year’s Eve together last night; my friend was telling me just last week how great things had been going, how sweet his dynamic with the neighbors was and how lovely his home. Now he’s texting me nonstop that he wants to kill himself, that he thinks about dying everyday and doesn’t tell anyone, and he’s asking me why he always end up in these situations, why he attracts addicts and abusers. I look up what to say to a suicidal friend again, just in case I’ve missed a key phrase. I am wearing a blue bikini. My legs aren’t shaved, a few pubes escape my tuck. Getting ready for the beach has become such an operation, but oh, how I always hated swim trunks. I lie easily in the sun, thick in sunscreen. My cousins nap by my side. Everything I text gets twisted around in my friend’s pain. How could you understand, he says, my life isn’t rose-colored. It’s not all sun and waves living above the bluffs.

At times I see the three-quarter moon coming up over the burnt-out ruins of a house and those pine trees with branches spaced a foot between each other, all the way up the trunk, like a child’s drawing of a christmas tree. And then, I kid you not, there are flocks? vees? gaggles? of pelicans that cross the horizon and swarm over where the fish must be while behind them the sun hits the waves and starts to get all 8-bit, blocky and badly rendered burning this color orange dreams of being, and in front of it all, the waves hit the rocks in tremendous fanfare reminding you your skull is a tiny crushable thing and the power of the ocean is to be sung in shredded vocal chords and seagull screeches, it always sounds like grunge music to me, or no wave, the noise rock of water destroying a shore over millenia.

My little sibling is in love. Their lover has come with them to this summer hemisphere all the way from a beach town that is almost in Canada, that is buried in ice now. They hardly speak Spanish. They whisper sitting on each others’ laps, laugh at stories about people none of us know. My sibling who always grumbled about boyfriends, teased my cousins’ couples, is inseparable now from this lanky northern lesbian.

I don’t know what to do with their love on the beach. They walk up and down the seaside of this fishing village turned tourist town hand in hand, jump into the waves together and emerge dripping in each others’ arms, lie atop each other upon the sand. I love their fearlessness. Their love is screaming defiance and no-fucks-given so loudly that even I, the elder trans sibling, am caught off guard.

When we three go dive into the water I feel extra exposed, outed almost, by what should be affirming company. It’s a strange calculus. What’s safer, our strength in numbers, or passing as stealthily as possible? I didn’t get a chance to wax my legs before vacation, still don’t know if I even want to. I keep my face well plucked, move my hips as best I can walking across sand. What’s the most feminine way to get into the sea? Is my tuck tight enough? Is that dad staring at me in a trans panic way or just in the normal creepy dad way? Do I even have enough tits for this top?

Three weeks ago a lesbian couple not far from here were beaten up and dragged across the pavement by a supermarket’s private security guards. A few months ago I attended a performance about a lesbian who was murdered in this area, probably by her roommate who still roams free. Two weeks ago an iconic elder trans woman, a well-known community member and respected activist, was murdered in her home in a nearby town. Hate crimes against queer people in Chile went up by at least 66% in the last year, according to preliminary reports: this particular region of the country is notoriously dangerous.

Imagine peril dukes it out with imagined community for primacy in my mind. Do I fear more the street or the state?

My sibling and their partner are going to go up into town to buy some ice cream, who wants some? From our towels we each yell out our orders. Everyone laughs when I say I want a chocolate-covered-coffee bar, but I know they’ll have it. We’ll see who’s laughing then. I tell the lovers to take the short, familiar route into town, but they don’t listen and head for the hills. You badass enbie dykes from another world, I think, loving them fierce, and then I think about death again, and then I think about ice cream.