“Fictional and indulgent beach reads to remove you from the 9 to 5 state of mind…to the To27 state of mind.”

The Fabulous Author by the Atlantic

I work an average of 10 hours a week more than my friends, including Tabitha. Her reasons for overtime usually involve a nightclub opening or a book launch party. So when Nikki crumbled in Miami, I cursed and clenched my teeth vicariously through Tabitha. I believe she and I shared a tacit agreement that I needed this vacation more than anyone, so I blocked Nikki’s tantrums out and just enjoyed every moment dancing by myself in electric Miami.

One night, when Nikki cried drunk at South Beach’s Gansavoort (who cries at a rooftop lounge?), I did make the observation that she is a beautiful crier. Tears gloss and enlarge her almond eyes and blubbering swells her lips only slightly. I don’t have that luxury. My whole face turns beet-red and my nostrils flare with every whimper. After four years of dealing with my boss Patty’s public scrutiny and worse, her condescending tone of speech, I managed to leave work tear-free everyday. But after my annual review, when I was passed for a promotion and given a measly raise, I cried my face to its ugliest point.

Absorbing some writing inspiration from the beautiful ocean, and my crazy girlfriends.

That day Frank came home early and before placing his messenger bag down or taking off his jacket, he sat down and held my hands. “Baby, just quit. Go to Miami with the girls and when you come back, move to New York with me. Start your job hunt from there. My company will take care of me and I’ll take care of you, Leila.”

I did enjoy Miami but thoughts of leaving the #1 newspaper in Boston with no job lined up in New York City plagued me while I sunbathed. So did flashbacks of my most miserable days at the old office. Patty Rubenstein, managing political editor for The Boston Courant, never liked me. Not because I was a bad reporter, I won our paper a New England Broadcasters Association award within my first year there. The dislike was not professional, but personal. She was in her late thirties and still dating a string of unpromising men. She wasn’t unattractive but just a frigid woman who loved to talk only politics. Who could ever fall in love with her? It was widely known her dislike, or jealousy, towards me became more apparent after Frank and I got engaged earlier this year.

An editor told me Patty scoffed at my ring when I was absent during a morning meeting. “If you can’t afford a decent ring then you can’t afford to get married.” (The ring was my late mother’s, and it is exactly what I wanted.) Two days later she showed up at the office showing off a new chunky sapphire from David Yurman. It was the most tasteless, gaudiest ring of sparkling navy blue I ever saw.

I moved to New York and didn’t mind that Frank’s mother hired a decorator to furnish our Upper West Side apartment before we even arrived. He started at his office’s New York branch while I commenced an aggressive job hunt. After three weeks, not even a single rejection letter from an employer appeared in my mailbox. Besides hopeless, I began to feel bored and lonely in this new city. Luckily, Krissy’s father knew the editor of The Hampton Sun newspaper. He hired me as a freelance writer to cover local town halls, and on occasion, galas and events. Tabitha gave me the keys to her mansion’s pool house, where I stay when I am on assignment. She also connected me to Hampton Life Magazine, where the editor agreed to pay me small bucks to write some beach fiction for the website. I have covered political journalism for so long, so writing bite-sized literature would be a revitalizing break from the beat of corruption, scandals and finger-pointing.

I am sitting at Tabitha’s sunlit guest house, trying to remember everything Prof. Mulligan taught me during my creative writing course at Syracuse. “Don’t allude so much to your life,” the acclaimed author would say. “Don’t write your auto-biography. Draw stories from your own imagination. Avoid the self-referential.”

It took me about thirty minutes to write my review for a fundraiser in Bridgehampton, but when it came to my “Belle of the Beach” column, I am stuck with a blank page. I close my laptop and drive to East Hampton to shop for a bit. Frank would be taking the LIRR this evening after a long work week, so wearing a form-fitting sundress would serve as the perfect welcome wagon. While browsing the tunics and halter dresses at Intermix, I realize profligate spending while I work freelance without health benefits, mooch off my best friend’s beach house and largely depend on my fiancé’s income wouldn’t be very classy of me. So I figured a small treat from Dylan’s Candy Bar would be reasonable. I scoop plenty of chocolate pretzels into a bag and at the checkout line, I spot a blueberry Ring Pop. I drive back to Tabitha’s and take one of her empty David Yurman jewelry gift boxes. I place the Ring Pop into the velvet-lined box and with no hesitation, FedEx it to a Miss Patty Rubensteen. I know karma will probably bite back, but the overwhelming support from Frank and my friends makes me feel invincible.

For the rest of noon, I settle at Montauk Beach on a beach chair with my laptop. I thought about the past few months. I followed my gut and finally garnered courage to leave an unfulfilling job. In Miami, I rediscovered my love for dancing with nothing more than one diluted cocktail in my system. Overall, I gave myself kudos for remaining fun and spontaneous, even as I prepare to make that full transition to adulthood. Years of nonstop work and my soon-to-be marriage hasn’t pushed me to the dull side, which has been an ongoing fear since I turned 21. I am still me and Frank seems to keep bringing out the very best in me. I feel sexier and more fearless than ever.

At the beach, I think of my friends one by one. Tabitha’s love triangle, Krissy’s reunion, Nikki’s heartache. Despite the travails of time and distance, and the frightening clashes sprinkled in between, the four of us have remained like sisters long after we drove away from campus. I will likely call Nikki while I wait for Frank’s train this evening.

I looked at the blank document on my screen and thought of Prof. Mulligan’s creative writing philosophy. My professor was wrong, only the self-referential could inspire such a prodigal summer of writing that I already foresee. I think deeper of everyone’s start off to summer, then absorb my beautiful surroundings. Yes, not alluding to my own life would be quite impossible while I live in this East End backdrop. Today the surf is extremely violent and no one is allowed to swim. But just past the terrifying waves and towards the horizon, everything looks still and peaceful, and the sun is scintillating off the most calming, magnificent sea of sparkling navy blue I ever saw.

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