Twirling the grains of sand between his fingers, Mark sat on the beach with an eye for the ocean. It was a warm Saturday and there were many people on the beach but he sat alone, the feeling of isolation undoubtedly surrounding his parasol. He was debating a child with his longtime girlfriend but was unsure if they would cope with the pressures of raising a baby, juggling a job and sustaining a healthy marriage. He hugged his legs as he sat upright, his chin resting on his knees.
He watched the families planted on various parts of the beach, the young couples, the wild teenagers and concession stands filled with ice cream and treats. He decided to head to the boardwalk, leaving his towel and possessions beneath the tilted parasol. He walked the wooden dock in search of nothing in particular, catching sight of postcards, flashy t-shirts and beach paraphernalia. He missed having his girlfriend along for the day trip to enjoy the warm weather.
The boardwalk was a throwback to Mark’s past. He remembered running the strip with his friends, annoying the older visitors with their unpredictability and making new friendships at every turn. The soft serve ice creams, the souvenirs, and the jaw dropping pretty older girls that walked past without noticing him. The times had passed and life had changed for Mark. He knew well how to deal with his nostalgia. He smiled to himself, cherishing the ridiculous memories that he had formed on the trips to the beach.
Upon returning to his towel, Mark noticed a couple of children nearby playing in the sand. He wondered how life may turn out with two children, thinking through his readiness to handle the responsibilities of little versions of himself. With buckets in hand and little shovels to dig through the wet sand, the children explored the bounds of their creativity, eventually tiring and looking around for further entertainment. They locked in on Mark, who was now reading a magazine under his parasol. They approached him hastily, one falling flat in the sand at Mark’s foot.
“Be careful!” Mark uttered, standing up to help the child to his feet.
The child, smothered in sand, smiled as his friend chuckled, covering his laughing face.
“Can you help us build a sand castle?” The boys asked together, competing to see who could get the words out quicker.
Mark put his magazine down.
“Let’s do it” He stood up, brushing the sand off his shorts and walking over to the dug up area.
With the use of the buckets and tiny shovels, the three set off on making a sand castle. Within a few minutes, a monstrosity of a sand fortress stood on the beach, without much shape or hope of making it through the next wave that swept inland. The young architects, pleased with their work set about chasing each other around the construction. The children’s parents appeared next to Mark, apologizing for their kid’s disruption of Mark’s day at the beach. Mark refused the apology, citing he was enjoying himself and assuring the parents not to worry. The family left soon thereafter, leaving Mark at his parasol again.
He looked over at the imperfect castle, heaped together by furious hands for the sake of recreation. He was happy to have built something with the two children.