The Temescal Canyon section of the Will Rogers State Beach near Malibu, California.
I was infuriated when I heard she was coming to the party. I had not seen her since that afternoon six months earlier in 1988 when she suddenly broke up with me. But I had thought of her almost every day of that angry and embittered summer, berating myself endlessly for not being handsome enough, more worthy as a man, etc. - blaming no one else but myself for the breakup. And now, on the opening night of the new academic year, she was coming to the party at my fraternity house.
I no longer wanted to go to my own party.
And so exasperated I got on my motorcycle and drove from Westwood to nearby Culver City and stopped in at the first hole-in-the-wall bar I could find. I showed the bartender my California driver's license indicating that, yes, I really had just turned 21 and settled down over a beer to think about what to do. A part of me wanted not to deal with her at all, to go someplace else for the evening. Another side of me wanted to see her, even if only to see how she looked and exchange pleasantries. I finally decided to go to the party and avoid her.
She seemed genuinely happy to see me in the manner of an old friend who after a long separation rushes to catch up. I answered her questions guardedly on the patio near the keg and kept what I was really feeling stuffed deep down inside. Somehow - I swear I have not the slightest idea how - we ended up alone sitting opposite each other in a deserted corner of the third floor of my fraternity house. She asked if she could sit on my lap. My head spinning with confusion, I said nothing in reply. She then simply came over and sat on my lap.
At this point, I was a taut mass of frustrated emotion as months of repressed feelings suddenly flooded up uncontrollably. What earlier had been rage directed at her (and myself) was now changing into a feeling of fatigue and deep sadness at missing her so much for six months. Six exhausting months of recriminations and self-laceration. Six long months of thinking about her everyday and lying to myself that I was actually happier without her in my life. I could lie to myself no longer. She kissed me and I responded. Stopping to look me in the eyes, she asked, "What's wrong?" I told her....
We must have arrived at Will Rogers State Beach near Malibu in search of privacy around three or four in the morning. We parked near Temescal Canyon and walked hand-in-hand through the darkness to a secluded spot next to a jetty where we curled up together in the sand. In the release of physical love and in the ensuing languor, I felt something deep inside me unwind and relax. Lying there listening to the surf with her asleep in my arms, I let the redemptive healing power of forgiveness wash away six months of anger and hurt.
My feet hardly touched the ground as I slept walk through the next few days in a cocoon of happiness with my head in the clouds.