"All this for what? The smoke? The waves? Was this what I was supposed to end up with? Is this what my life is?" Illustration: Matt Bauer

"All this for what? The smoke? The waves? Was this what I was supposed to end up with? Is this what my life is?" Illustration: Matt Bauer

He is a surfer. He is forty one years old. He has worn a beard for the last 20 of those years. Along with a worn yet clean Pendleton shirt under a dark blue down vest. In his white pick-up, at all times, he carries a beat up surfboard, seven feet, two inches long, a tattered wetsuit, a hoe, a shovel, three 5 gallon buckets, two fifty pound sacks of manure, and a loaded pistol.

On this day he arrives at the Point Arena Pier a little earlier than usual.  About 3:00 pm.

He parks his car and walks out onto the pier to check the surf. He does this everyday, every single day, even though he has been wondering why. He sees that the surf is up again. He guesses that means he’ll have to go surfing.

After all, isn’t that what I live for?

He looks out onto the surf off the point. He sees that a former friend of his is in the line-up. This reminds him of his work. His work that has caused the falling out between him and all his friends. His work that has caused his wife to take their kid and split. His work that has landed him in jail twice. His work that he has begun to despise for the very first time in his life.

He looks around once, then unbuckles his belt. He unzips the hidden pouch on the back of his belt and pulls out a thumb-sized joint. A resiny bit of his latest indoor harvest, the good shit, the stuff that next week’s big sale is all about.  He looks around just to be sure, then sparks it.

He draws deeply, burning a full inch of it. He feels it soar into his lungs and work itself up into his forehead. The sickly sweetness sweeps up behind his bloodshot eyes, and time slows down for the millionth time in his life.

A big set of ocean waves hiss through the lineup. Some teenager in a bright orange wetsuit drops into a wave and starts hacking around on the face of it, aggressively slashing his surfboard this way and that.

Shit, what do these disco kids know about surfing? Shit, man, all they do is go out and get in the way of real surfers like me. Wiggling around like a bunch of retards. Hell, these pussies don’t even smoke anymore, what the hell do they know, the little shits.

He has said this to himself a thousand times. It’s a thought that he is tired of. It’s old and useless.

Shit.

He says this one out loud. Then he tries, for the first time in a long time, to think of something nice.

Nothing comes to mind. Only all the crap he has been putting up with.

The fuckin’ cops and their fuckin’ heat-seeking helicopter equipment. The fuckin’ busts. The fuckin’ payoffs. The fuckin’ cocaine assholes movin’ in. The fuckin’ rip-offs between friends, the fuckin’ deer that have been eating all my outdoor homegrown and those fuckin’ dogs of mine that won’t do a fuckin’ thing about it. And all those fuckin’ big business yuppie college boys that are taking over the business, showing up in suits for Chrissakes, organizing outlaw farmers into some kind of union, but only so that they can broker bales of the shit down to the rich buggering queers in the Castro.  And that fuckin’ wife of mine that didn’t want to raise a kid around the whole scene and just up and split.

The fuckin’ paranoia.

The fuckin’ surfing.

There. That was a new one. He’d finally admitted it. The surfing. The whole reason he got into this lifestyle in the first place. Twenty years ago it was all so righteous. He and all his friends dropping out of Berkeley, scamming an easy life, scamming for easy street. Plenty of bud, plenty of surf. All the Marley shit.

But now…now he was bored with it. Stupid with it.

He stunk of it.

He takes another deep drag. He wonders why it is so painful to think back to these days. He blames it on the surfing. Like old smoke, the high of surfing had just worn off, leaving a sour cottonmouth. He feels old. Bitter. He admits to himself again just to be sure that his desire to surf was just about gone. And here he had gone and based his whole life on it. Dedicating his whole life to surfing and being an asshole local and yelling at people and growing his Goddamned weed so that he could just keep doing it over and over, day after day. Oh sure, he’d laughed along the way. He’d loved a woman, had a kid, had some good friends, had some good waves.

But that was all pretty much gone now.

Fuck, I haven’t even talked to my Dad for ten years…and all this for what? The smoke? The waves? Was this what I was supposed to end up with? Is this what my life is?

He isn’t even looking at the surf at this point. He is looking down off the pier into the water. Even the water seemed to be colder to him these days. He shakes his head and wipes his face with his right hand. Does a long, good job of it too.

He takes a last drag on his smoke and flicks the remaining half into the water.

Hell, there’s plenty more where that came from.

He turns and walks back to his truck. He pulls his musty wetsuit out of the bed and begins to turn it inside out. He then strips naked and crawls up into the cab to pull his wetsuit on.

Then he stops. Just sits there.

His fingers let go of the wetsuit and the thing slides down into the wheel well around his ankles.

He is motionless for five minutes exactly. He then reaches under his seat, finds the holster, peels off the duct tape. He pulls out the weapon, weighs it in his hand. He flicks the red safety button on and off a few times. The gun feels heavier to him than it ever has. He flicks the safety off. Twists his wrist and stares down the barrel for a long moment. As if there might be some kind of light at the end of it. Like a wave, he thinks.

It is not fear he feels; it’s something else: a disconnection with everything.

He fits the gun back in its holster under the seat, smears the duct tape back over it and then just sits back in his seat.  He wonders what it will feel like.

A spray of stars and the answer to the great question?  Or do the lights just go out?

With the sound of the sea and the smell of the smoke on him, he’s as lonely as he has ever been in his life.

He stares out the dirty windshield at nothing.

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