THE POWER OF THE MIND…FREEZING – BEACH STORY
A real-life excerpt by Dana Hee
Heading back to my little shelter three miles from the grocery store, I tore the wrapping from the Hostess Twinkies and wolfed them down, licking the last of the sticky frosting from my fingertips. Wiping my fingers on my jeans, I pulled the light windbreaker tighter around my lean torso, trying to get more warmth against the cold frost that covered the shadowy trees and grass of the perfectly manicured suburban lawns in the darkness of the night. The sky was crystal clear, my breath filled the air with thin white smoke and each icy inhalation sent a chill deep into my lungs.
As I quickened my pace, I shivered uncontrollably against the cold wind as it picked up gusto. The fall leaves rustled across the sidewalk and dropped from the almost barren tree limbs. Fascinated with their frenetic journey as they brushed past my feet and slammed themselves against the sides of the houses and fence posts, I tried to lose myself in the mysteriousness of their dark journey. Like me…they were like lost souls hurrying here…then there…hopeless, afraid, with no place to really go.
My jaw chattered like a Halloween skeleton and every muscle in my body tensed unbearably against the constant heavy trembling until it felt like I might snap in two. I would’ve broken into a jog-trot to try and help my body warm up…but I was exhausted from lack of sleep, lack of nutrients, and the ravages of extreme emotional distress. So as I forced myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other to close the distance to my little shelter, I tried to focus on something that might help me fight the coldness creeping into my limbs like a demon trying to take possession of my body. Only, my mind was almost as numb as my body.
Shaking my hair free of my eyes, I looked upwards into the sky…hoping to see any kind of cloud cover. None! Looking upwards again, I saw the distant glowing of stars and I thought of how wonderful it would be if only it was one of those hot, August days on the beach in Santa Cruz with my girlfriend, Marylyn. Losing myself in that thought…I recalled the last time we went there. That day when we skipped out of school at lunch time…
Heck…it must’ve been over a 100 degrees out, and her ravaged, little VW bug almost overheated on the steep hill up the mountain as we headed out of the stifling heat of the valley and upwards into the balmy heat of the pines…and down towards the often cooling breeze of the ocean winds. Only that day….there were no cooling breezes. Windows down…no air condition, and the heat from the engine block filling the tiny space inside…the sweat dampened our hair began to drip down my torso as we fought the stop and go traffic to the parking lot, and then creeped round and round looking for one of the rare openings. At last!
We found tiny opening and tumbled gratefully out of the unbearable heat of the car and began unloading our ice chest and chairs. “Thank God for sandals!” I thought to myself, as we picked up our supplies and trudged through the parking lot while the heat waves shimmered upwards from the burning tarmac. Reaching the crowded boardwalk, we maneuvered through the suffocating throngs of people until we found an opening onto the long hot stretch of sand. “Wow!” “Not even a whisper of a wind!” Marylyn whined as the sweat now poured down both of our faces.
Navigating the sea of roasting bodies and damp beach towels…we finally found a space and set out the chairs and towels. I plopped down onto the already hot towel, as Marylyn dropped into a chair, reached into the ice chest and handed me a dripping wet, frosted, ice cold beer. Popping off the lid, I rolled the smooth coolness of the bottle against my forehead before taking a long refreshing swig. “Ahhh….” “Much better!” We both said at the same time, and laughed at that cool, odd connection we always had with our line of thought.
Snapping back into the present…I realized I had almost reached the old orchard where the abandoned newspaper recycling bin awaited me with it’s protection from the wind and the subtle warmth of its half filled mattress of stacks of old un-used newspapers. As I passed the last of the perfect little suburban houses with their perfect, laughing families watching TV and eating their perfect dinners…I looked with envy into the warmth of their houses…their soft lights glowing from un-curtained windows.
That’s when it hit me…that, I wasn’t cold any longer! My body no longer shook. My muscles had almost completely relaxed and my jaw was no longer clenched and chattering. The astounding realization that my thoughts about the hot beach trip had triggered this unnatural warmth…hit me like a ton of bricks. And I smiled to myself as I climbed through the small opening in my precious little shelter.