Lydia walked along the quiet sands of Jamaica Beach. There was a lingering stillness in the air that attracted the feeling, not of nostalgia, but that this was a moment from which nostalgia is made. From trillions of miles away, the light from the stars was just reaching earth. Dark waves crashed and retreated on the beach. Abandoned white foam yearned to be reunited with the ocean.
There is a certain sadness, Lydia thought, to perfection. People strive so laboriously to find just a single moment of peace, that when it finally comes, they are so terrified of losing it, they cannot enjoy it. Peace is the most elusive of emotions, always within sight and yet just beyond one’s fingertips. Lydia sat down on the sand and pulled her legs up close to her body. She rested her head on her kneecaps and watched as sand sifted through her long fingers. She wanted to remember this moment, remember the smallest of details, so when she would retell it in later years, she could do so with enough exactitude as to elicit winsome approval of innocence and burgeoning adulthood from her audience.
From behind her, Lydia could hear the sound of the party. It sounded far away. Not uproarious, there was no music blaring nor people screaming. Just the tinkling sound of distant conversation dispersed with mild laughter. The girls had driven out from Houston earlier in the day. They had spent most of the afternoon sunbathing and playing in the cool gulf waters. The boys arrived later in the evening and with them, a trunk load of alcohol. At first, the girls played demur, denying drinks, as the rules of the game required, but the boys were persistent and the girls eventually relented.
Lydia turned around and looked back up at the house. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves, enjoying the last hurrah before they each left for their respective colleges and universities. Lydia smiled. In the moment, they all looked so promising, so vital, so handsome.
It stuck her as odd that she would ever be considered a part of this accomplished group. She was, of course, a part of it. It was her station in life. Her friends were the children of her parent’s friends. They had been raised together, went to the same schools, joined the same gymnastics and swim teams and respective scout troops. It would be unthinkable for Lydia to not be a part of this group. And yet, she didn’t feel a part of them. To Lydia, they were all sure of themselves, secure in their place. She was just there. Never quite invited or uninvited. But it all rang untrue. All of it. As if life were somehow this massive fictitious illusion where everyone puts up with everyone else because they don’t know what else to do.
Except, somehow, for Tuck.
Lydia met Tucker the first day of kindergarten. Her father had explained to her the day before that when one meets new people, the thing to do was to stick out one’s hand and proclaim in a loud, clear voice, “My name is Lydia Wilder.”
Then the other person would say, “My name is yadda yadda. How do you do?” Several times, Lydia and her father practiced the routine. “My name is Lydia Wilder.”
So, when Lydia entered the classroom she went directly up to the teacher, stuck out her hand and proclaimed, with an air of certitude, “My name is Lydia Wilder.” To which the teacher replied, “My name is Mrs. Leigh. How do you do?”
Confident, now in her approach, Lydia looked for another person to introduce herself to. Off to the side sat a fat cheeked boy in a striped shirt and Oshkosh jeans. Lydia walked over, “My name is Lydia Wilder.”
The boy looked up at Lydia, and then shifted to look around her. “Your shoe is untied.”
Lydia continued looking down at the boy, waiting for him to introduce himself, while he continued leaning off to the side to look at the rest of the class. “Umm, Lydia? Can you sit down please?”
Lydia turned around to see if she could see what the boy was seeing. Students were filing in. Moms were crying. Kids were crying. Some were wearing Sunday’s best. Other looked like they had dressed themselves. Slowly, Lydia backed up and without taking her eyes off the show, sat down on the floor next to the unnamed boy. Lydia took her hand in his, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. He looked at her and nodded, and then both of them turned their attention back to the room in rapt concentration.
For the next twelve years, never would one see Tuck without seeing Lydia in close proximity.
“Hey, Lydia. Where did you go?”
“I just needed fresh air. Tuck, you ever get the feeling that this is the best it’s ever gonna get?”
Tuck sat down next to Lydia, put his arm around her shoulder, and drew her closer to him. “No, Lydia. This is not the best it gets. This is just the beginning.” They sat there, as they were want to do, comfortable with each other’s silence. “You wanna get out of here? Go for a drive?”
Lydia nodded her head, and together they walked off towards the car.