New South Wales, Australia August 1, 2021
It was early Sunday morning, and I was grateful to be outside of the city, watching the sky melt through pastel oranges, pinks and blues, and fill with light.
I was with my boyfriend A and his housemate, on the Point Perpendicular lighthouse grounds. Two lighthouses, actually—one is the original, and looks exactly like the lighthouse you picture in your mind when someone says ‘lighthouse.’ The second is new and looks like a scaffolding tower—all white metal angles, with LED lights and a solar panel on top. It’s probably vastly more efficient than the old lighthouse, but it isn’t as romantic, I thought. No one ever wrote a horror movie or a romcom set around a scaffolding tower.
While A’s housemate video called a friend in Eastern Europe, A and I walked around the grounds, then to the rock cliffs, where we sat for a while longer. We saw some whales! And some jet boats, stirring up white foam in the glassy water. From the sandstone cliffs, the waves looked smooth and peaceful, and real life felt very small and very far away.
“Would you want to be a whale?” I asked A. You wouldn’t need to be concerned with pandemics or self-fulfillment or career moves, just with migrating from cold waters to warm, and back again.
“But what about predators?” he asked.
Yeah, I replied, but humans are on alert all the time anyway, just for stupid shit like social situations. At least your whale concerns would be more practical.
He took my point, but he didn’t think he’d want to be a whale.
Back at the campground at Honeymoon Bay, where we’d been staying, we prepared breakfast: yogurt with berries. And some crushed up Tim Tams, because life is short.
As we walked down the short path to the beach, passing the odd tent and campervan, a fellow camper told us to keep an eye out for a baby seal that had been sunning itself on the rocks the day before. We sat down to eat our breakfast on the beach, and I took a photo of my bowl balanced on my knees, the water peaceful and picturesque in the background.
Suddenly, A pointed to the neck of the cove, maybe 50 meters away, where something was swimming towards the rocks. We climbed up the rocks ourselves, and there it was: the baby seal. I’ve seen wild seals before, but seeing this lone, chance baby seal was particularly exciting. We watched it for a while—occasionally it threw its head back and let out a guttural, yelping howl. It was delightful.
“Would you want to be a seal?” I asked A.
Eventually, we retreated back to the beach, where I tried to write in my journal. I’m optimistic, I wrote. I am prepared for the next month, I’m in a good place, I’ve been working on myself. A couple of paragraphs in, it started to drizzle very slightly, so I decided to put my journal away. Instead, I lay on the picnic blanket, closed my eyes, and pretended that I lived there.
But I am neither a seal nor a whale, and it was Sunday afternoon and time to leave. We stopped at Huskisson on the drive home for World Famous Fish and Chips, our tradition when we camp out this way. My favorite part of the order is always the potato cake: Oily-crispy-salty and almost enough to teleport me back to childhood after-school swimming lessons.
In the evening, A and I drove to my friend J’s house for a crash course in bachata. J loves Latin dancing and was delighted when I told him I might want to take it up, so he’d been teaching me the basics. I love learning things as long as I’m instantly good at them, so I am having a great time and estimate I will for another couple months, until I reach a level that requires dedication rather than intuition, and get frustrated. A had never danced before, but he gave it a pretty good go, his brow furrowed intently as he one-two-three-tapped up and down the living room.
Back home, Sunday was almost over. I catalogued the busy upcoming month and week: Work, uni, gym, Spanish lessons, dance. I’m optimistic about managing it all, I thought to myself. But then again, I’ve been optimistic a few times over the last couple of years, and it hasn’t always gone as expected.
I patted my dog, Stephie. My ex dropped her off earlier—we have shared custody. She looked at me with her big, soulful eyes and flopped over to expose her belly. Would you want to be a human? I asked her.