ALRIGHT so we’re drunk – real drunk – full of cheap wine and Bill takes off down the dirt road towards the shore. I gotta follow him, can’t let him get lost out there, not in his boxers anyway, so I take off after him. We’re both burnin’ down the gravel and dust, but he’s got a good lead on me, and behind us the party just continues on without ever even noticing. It’s roaring real loud by now. Bill just keeps yelling about getting to the beach. He wants to go for a swim and that’s all he wants. Somewhere before we get to the main road, he kicks off his sandals and keeps on movin’. I gain a little ground on him, but we meet up when he stops at the main road, realizing he doesn’t know where he’s going.
It’s dark and we’re way out in the country so it’s that real nowhere dark that cities are afraid of. Bill is panting with his hands on his knees, his full shoulders hunched and heaving with his breath.
“All I want to do is go to the beach,” he says between hard gasps, drunk, “You know where the beach is, bro? You could come with me.”
I’m feeling adventurous and not that old tired heavy-head wine drunk, more of a passionate fever-heart wine drunk.
“Yea man, let’s do it. Bottom of the hill, not a half a mile. Let’s go.”
I’ve noticed that Bill gets this wild look in his eyes when he’s got an idea, grins with every tooth in his mouth, real wide. He’s got that look right now. He takes off again but this time I’m right with him. We’re running down opposite sides of the road, him on the left me on the right. My sandals are off too, and we’re hittin’ the pavement with loud, animal slaps. Our soles are black like the ocean but we ain’t slowin’ down. We can’t help laughing. There are these incredible tall trees on the side of the road with leaves that grow only at the very top, you know, like the ones the giraffes eat, but we don’t even notice them. They’re here and beautiful and so tall, but we’re going to the beach.
“Yo, Bill! There’s a car coming! Look the fuck out man!”
“Nah this is New Zealand bro, its comin’ on your side! Get outta the fuckin’ way you stupid American fuck!”
Sure enough, there’s yellow coming out from behind the trees down the bottom of the hill right up my lane. I still haven’t lost that imperialistic American tic in my brain, I have not learned to think upside down. I peel off into Bill’s lane, he’s laughing like an idiot, but it’s okay, he is an idiot. He’s running down some midnight road in his underwear drunk off boxed wine in New Zealand. We’re both idiots, man, but it’s okay. The car passes no problem and we are feeling good. Drunk like old poets. He’s feeling a bit like Moriarty and I’m feelin’ a lot like old Jackie Duluoz. And that’s alright; the beach is just up ahead.
“Is this it? Tell me this is it!”
That wind is picking up a bit, or maybe we’re just running downhill, but we’re lettin’ it roar, yelling to the stars. He’s jumping, trying to see the beach, but keeping pace. We get to an opening in the trees, there’s an old white Subaru parked there, probably with some Kiwis in the back necking under the big big sky. We can hear the water comin’ in, sloshing happily like it only does down here. Here, the trees here grow straight out of the ground, no bullshit man, branch out right from the stump. Makes ‘em easy to see through, and we can. We can see right through those trees and there’s that big beautiful ocean calling us over and over and over and over. God’s perfect clock.
“Yea this is it, Billy Boy, this is it!”
We’re tired, we’re fuckin’ wheezing, man, but we feel so good. We don’t know how else to feel. Our faces are flushed, Bill’s feet are sore, and his thick knees are almost done running. But not yet: the tide is dead low and the water is far out there. I stop and pull off my gym shorts and t-shirt, Bill keeps going, darting between tide pools. I’m quick to follow. There’s a bit of reef shuffled in all the sand, and I rip a hole in my left foot ‘bout the size of an American dime, but I keep on running. I’m bleedin’ like a pig but you can’t even tell in the dark. Bill hits the water before me with an reckless guffaw.
I don’t really know Bill, he was just there, and I felt a sudden crop of concern for him. We had been casual friends at the party, toasted a glass or two, argued the merits of American football to a few obstinate Maoris, but we never really got deep into it, me and him. I’m not sure where his clothes went to begin with, but the wine dissolved all that. All I care about right now is that hole in my foot, now filling with wet sand, and getting in that water. It’s the Pacific man, the great blue bastard that never ends. It just keeps on going forever, and even though it’s already got so much, I let it take me too.
It wraps around me like a mother.
The water is the same temperature as summer sky. My foot is stinging hard and my thin lips are tastin’ too much salt, but we’re singin’, out there in a big dark, dark ocean we’re singin’ like the idiots we are, songs about nothin’, just making noise. We’re still drunk, but the water, that easy gentle monster stretching her mothering arms to the shore; she’s getting us good and intoxicated.
“You’re never gonna see anything like this again in your life!” Bill screams, plunging the water with his burly Irish freckled arms, “Take it while you can.”
I’m just laughing. Bill’s a writer too, so I know just what he means, and I know he knows just what I mean. I can’t talk, man, it’s too beautiful; so I just laugh like an idiot. There are these big cliffs on the right of the beach, all covered in trees, but from a distance it looks like spoon moss. So those moss-covered cliffs are climbin’ up to the right, and, in the distance, we can see the glow of City beaming bright. That’s where we live, student flats in Auckland City, but she’s all the way over there under some other sky, and our sky is so full of its own lights, so we forget about flats and textbooks. The moon is only half illuminated, but we can see it all, so bright, lookin’ back at us surrounded by stars. More cliffs on the left, not as impressive, but we know we’ll miss them if they ever collapsed, so we try to remember how beautiful they are. We use that word a lot, only now we actually mean it. We try to say it other ways (being writers and all) (and drunk), but we just can’t say it right.
“This is incredible. It goes on forever man, fucking forever. Now you know what forever looks like, Jerry, this is it. It’s lookin’ back at us, two little fuckers with nothin’ but ink and wine in their heads, and we’re laughin’.”
We’re so full of wonder, and we’re stupid for it all.
“Yea man, we’re laughin’ and they can’t do nothin’ about it, so keep on laughin’!”
We’re both laughing now. We’re yelling up there waiting for an echo or a reply. I have never seen so many stars, and that makes me feel smaller than a thimble. I think I’m fine being just a thimble, though, must be overwhelming to be something so big and far. I’m happy and stupid in love and it’s all perfect, and that’s another word we say a lot, but, in this drunk happy moment, we mean it. We say it like there was no better word, and there isn’t. The Pacific is only waist-high here, and that’s all we need.
Those cliffs man, the grinning face of a mountain all rocky and sand-colored, they’re right next to the city lights if you look at it just right, and the contrast is almost enough to suck the alcohol right outta my senses. This is what we’ve been pressing for ever since we came here. Ever since San Francisco ever, since New York, ever since Boston. I never thought I’d be able to see this far and this high, and, all at once panoramic be so astounded with how the sky isn’t actually black, it’s just really dark blue, and the ocean is the same color if you really think about it, too. You wouldn’t believe it, and maybe I’m wasting my time trying to explain it, but it is all here, and it all makes sense to fools. Makes my heart swell up like a boxer’s fist.
“I just wish I had like a high-rise or something out here, you know? Maybe over there.” he says, pointing behind me, “that way I could wake up every morning and see this same thing, every morning.”
“Ever think it’d get old though? Like, after a few months, you’d just stop appreciating the beauty? I feel like we do that a lot, anyway.”
“Maybe you’re right. I donno though. I donno if I’d ever get sick of seeing this.”
Bill raises his arm, points one finger from his meaty knuckle up to the moon and says to me:
“If this all was yours to give, who would you give it to man? This whole big everything, who deserves this? I mean, we definitely don’t,” he snickers, “so who does?”
He’s right, we don’t. We don’t deserve to be so astonished, we were just stupid and drunk and lucky and alive, but we’re here now, so I need to decide who would I give my yellow moon to.
I don’t even think, I just say it.
“My kids, man. They need to see something like this before they die.”
“Yea, you’re right. You’re fuckin’ right man; I just want to share this so badly.”
“I’m good with just us right now, but some day I’m gonna come back here, under this same 2 a.m. sky on this same little beach in nowhere, New Zealand, and show them how amazing this world can be.”
“What about you, man, who would you give that fat old moon to?” I ask, sliding backward into the water so it’s right up to my neck. Bill does the same because it looks relaxing. It is.
He lets it out real slow. Jennnnyyyyy. I can tell he’s being sincere. Bill reminds me of a child sometimes, it’s one of the things I love most about him and every little emotion he has is so pure and so full of absolute honesty that it makes me almost sick to not be the same.
“Tell me about Jenny.”
“She’s from back home, me and her had a real good something in high school, but we broke it off when I came here. She’d know how beautiful this is. It’s the only thing almost as beautiful as her. I wish she was in my arms right now. I’d cradle her in these waves here and we’d laugh just like you and me. We’d stare up forever and just remember what we actually knew about love and forget that I’m an ocean away on this fuckin’ island and we’d run down and make love on the beach, yea man, under the stars and all, like the songs say. It’d be everything for me.”
“Sounds like a song to me.”
Wiping the salt from my lips: “One day you’ll have that.”
Suddenly, he gets up out of the water, barrel-chested and serious this time.
“But she can’t have it, man, not this sky not this moon.”
“Why not? Sure she could.”
He eases up a bit, less serious, reflecting like an old man, starting to sober.
“Nah not tonight Jerry, this is ours tonight.”
And we laugh. We laugh like idiots because we are idiots, but we’re idiots with our own sky and our own moon and no one can have it or tell us what to do with it.
Jerard Fagerberg is a pigeon-headed, lion-chested poet and writer of the world. He received a degree in creative writing from Loyola University Maryland, where he founded the Greyhound Collective Poetry Revival. He is also a two-time Academy of American Poets Prize honoree and has been published in Boston Poetry Magazine, Word Bohemia, Phobos Magazine (forthcoming), and The Eunoia Review (forthcoming). Currently, he serves as an editor and graphic designer for Manik Music and can be seen performing poems at open mics in Boston and Cambridge, MA. @JGFagerberg