“Hey! Wake up, we’re here.” Charlotte Altomare reached out and gently nudged her husband in the shoulder.
Jack opened his eyes. He was hunched over in the passenger seat of the Subaru Legacy. He lifted his head up and looked around.
“Oh, sorry. I must have drifted off. It’s been a long week.” He said. The car was parked in a deserted gravel parking lot and the lake was visible through the windshield.
“You fell asleep about thirty minutes ago.” Charlotte said. She had the driver’s side door open and Jack could feel the heat flowing into the vehicle.
“Good God it’s hot!” Jack said. He exited the car and stretched, yawned.
“We’re the only people here. Not another soul in sight.” Charlotte said.
“Nice! Did you buy a day pass?” He said. He walked over to the guardrail in front of where the car was parked and leaned against it.
“No. I stopped at the little booth on the way in, but it was locked and deserted. I guess if anyone comes by we’ll just have to purchase one.” She said while walking over to join him.
“Probably due to all of the budget cuts in the state. That, and the fact that this lake is in the middle of nowhere.” He sighed and leaned out over the guardrail to take in the scenery. “I have been wanting to come out here since we moved back. How long has it been?”
“Seven years, maybe longer. We used to hang out here all the time when we were first falling in love.”
Jack nodded. “Still beautiful…” He said.
“Help me get all of this stuff out of the trunk.” Charlotte said.
“Okay.” Jack turned away from the view of the water and followed her to the back of the car.
“It’s already over one hundred degrees and it isn’t even noon.” She said as the trunk popped open.
“I heard yesterday that with the humidity it’s supposed to feel like one hundred and fourteen today. My blood is too thick for the summer here. Did not have to deal with this crap in the mountains.”
“Just wait until we’re in the water, it’ll feel great.”
The couple grabbed two small coolers, two bags full of supplies and a blanket from the trunk. They traveled down a narrow path that led away from the parking lot and toward the sandy beach.
“Where do you want to set everything up?” Charlotte said.
“How about over there?” He pointed.
Jack helped her unfold the blanket, then spread it out across the sand. The coolers and bags were placed on the corners of the blanket to keep it in place. Charlotte removed her shorts and shirt to reveal the swimsuit underneath. She folded the clothes and placed them inside of a bag.
“Your swimming trunks are in here. Are you going to go change?”
Jack looked around at the deserted beach, the parking lot. He shrugged. “Don’t see anybody. Guess I’ll just do it right here.”
“Why not? We used to go skinny dipping in this lake all the time.” He kicked off his shoes and began to undress. He sparked a cigarette to life when he was down to his boxer shorts. He removed the boxers and stood there smoking naked while looking out at the lake.
“Freedom.” He muttered.
“Somebody could pull into that lot at any moment!” Charlotte said. “Why don’t you put these on?” She removed his trunks from one of the bags and tossed them at his feet.
“Fine.” He slipped into the shorts and turned to look at her laying on the blanket. “When did you get that swimming suit?”
“A couple years ago. Hardly ever wear it.” She said.
“It looks very nice.”
He walked over to the blanket and sprawled out next to Charlotte. The sun was beating down and the heat was incredible.
They each helped the other with applying coconut oil to protect against the sun. Two beers were pulled from a cooler and a toast was made.
“Do you want to go swimming?”
“No, not yet.” She said. Let’s wait until we are so hot that we simply have to go in.”
Jack nodded and stretched out on his back.
“You know, you were right. This is exactly the type of day that I’ve been needing.” He said.
“Uh-huh. The city has been driving me nuts! It’s always something- The constant noise, the traffic, the crime, waiting in line everywhere you go. Fluoridated, spaced-out drivers cruising around with their cell phones and smashing into each other. Starting and stopping, a traffic light every ten feet! Everyone judging everyone around them for anything and everything until none of it means anything anymore! The walls inside the condo seem to close in a little bit more each day.” Jack said.
“Hey- Dammit, you promised me that you weren’t going to stress out today.”
“I know, you’re right. Sorry, I’m going off.”
“It’s okay, I needed a day like this too.” She turned and leaned toward him. The couple enjoyed a long, slow kiss.
“Love you, babes.”
“Love you, too.”
“What are you staring at?”
“Just admiring your legs.” He said.
“I see.” She said, smiling. “I know what you mean, though. I figured that we’d take the day off from everything, drive out here and hang out until the sun goes down, maybe longer.”
“We should have brought the tent and camped.” Jack said.
“I wanted to, but I have to be at work by ten tomorrow morning.” She turned over onto her side facing away from him.
Jack chugged what remained of his beer and then flipped over and laid on his stomach. He reached out near the outer edge of the blanket and scooped up a handful of sand. He slowly turned his hand sideways and allowed the sand to pour back down in a steady stream.
“Jack.” Charlotte whispered. Her back was still turned.
“Shhh. Don’t make any sudden movements.” She said. “There’s a sandhill crane over there in the water!”
“Really?” Jack whispered. He sat up slowly so that he could see over her shoulder. She was right- One tall, solitary crane was standing near the edge of the lake. The enormous bird was calmly watching the water and seemed unaware of their presence.
“Did you bring the camera?” Jack said softly.
“Yes. It’s right over here, but there’s no way that thing is going to let you get close enough to take a picture.”
“I have to try.” Jack said.
Charlotte handed him the camera and he calmly stood up. The magnificent creature was at least one hundred feet away from him, maybe more. It remained standing stock-still as Jack walked across the sand as quietly and gradually as possible. Just as he was drawing near the massive bird spread its wings without warning and took to the sky.
Jack watched as the crane flew to the other side of the lake and landed.
“I told you that you’d scare it off.” Charlotte said. She was sitting up on the blanket and smiling at him as he approached with the camera held loosely in one hand.
“I managed to get at least one good picture of it. What a beautiful creature.” He said.
“Make sure you get that camera out of the sun. I cannot take this heat any longer. It is time to get into the water.” She stood up from the blanket and brushed sand off of her legs.
“Sounds good!” He said. Sweat was dripping off of his face and running down his chest. By the time that he had placed the camera inside of its case Charlotte had already reached the edge of the low waves.
“I’m coming!” Jack said. He ran to join her.
“Ooh! It seems so cold!” She said. She was already knee deep in the water and was cringing as the waves gently lapped up against her.
“Holy– Yeah, I’d say it’s cold!” Jack said. He was trailing by only a few feet.
“Well, it won’t seem as bad once we’re fully submerged.” Charlotte said. She began striding forward through the water at a rapid pace.
Charlotte launched herself forward and dived under the water. She disappeared for a few moments and then popped back up. Jack followed suit and fully submerged himself.
“Ah! It feels so good after baking in the sun!” He said.
“Race me to the buoys!” Charlotte said.
She started doing a breatstroke in the direction of the floating orange buoys attached to a cable a couple hundred feet out into the lake. It was an old game that they used to play when they were much younger. Jack started swimming in the same direction. By the time he arrived at the buoys and reached out to grab hold of the cable running through them he was slightly out of breath.
“Ha! I actually beat you!” She said.
“You had a head start!” He sputtered out a mouthful of water as a wave splashed up into his face.
“I can’t touch out here, can you?”
“Nope.” He said. “It feels so good to swim, though. It has been too long.”
Charlotte nodded and attempted to climb onto the nearest buoy. She slipped off into the water and laughed.
“You know what,” Jack said. “I’ve been thinking…”
“Oh, about too much, probably. But there just seems to be so much hatred and division in the country lately. All of these people warning about the economy collapsing, about the possibility of a world war happening again, food shortages, gangs, the list goes on and on. I’m so sick of it all! Days like today- This is what I enjoy. This is how I want to live my life, having fun with the person that I care about the most. Not wallowing away in a concrete maze where everyone is miserable and confused.”
“I feel exactly the same way.” Charlotte said. She had moved down the cable a few feet to be closer to him.
“I’ve decided that I’m just… Letting go. Letting go of all these emotions that keep me twisted up inside. I’m not going to let all of these negative creeps get the better of me! I’m going to start living every single day like it’s the last day that I have left on this planet. And I’m going to crush anyone who attempts to get in my way!”
“That’s the way we always used to live.” She said. She was smiling at him and the light reflecting off of the water was causing her eyes to shimmer. “The way I see it there are only two things that really matter in this life: One is love and the other is freedom.”
“You said it, baby. Come over here a second.” Jack said. He reached out and pulled her close.
* * * * * * *
[Original writing & photography by J. E. Lattimer]
© 2012, 2013 J. E. Lattimer all rights reserved