At the Beach

11 Dec

One day at the beach, I went for a walk and met a woman leading a horse towards the pohutukawa at the end of the bay. She was preparing the horse for a wedding and was worried because the bride was not a rider and would be sitting side-saddle. The horse had the side-saddle strapped on and seemed quiet enough, although I know nothing about horses. The bride was her friend and she didn’t want anything to go wrong.

I didn’t see her again but each day there were hoof prints in the sand.

A week later I went to the local Hair and Beauty Salon to get my legs waxed. It’s a small building between the medical centre and the supermarket with wind-chimes and money plants outside its ranchsliders. Its walls are pink, its floor shiny black linoleum. Along one wall is the hair salon – mirrors, a ledge, a sink and a pair of chairs, and along the back wall a sort of desk where Lara sits filing and painting her nails white and square when she has a moment, and listens to Radio Rangikapiti. The desk faces the door so she has a good view of the people who come to the supermarket or the medical centre and calls out if she sees anyone she knows, which is just about all the time. Immediately inside the ranchsliders is a blue denim sofa, a pile of magazines and a broom and shovel.

When I arrived Lara was unwrapping diamond tiaras and necklaces – they glittered over her desk; she was wearing a necklace with a large twinkling heart, and a tiara gleamed  in her hair. I surprised her, but then she remembered. Oh yeah, you’re the leg wax – full or half? which was not how I would have put it. She told me to sit for a few minutes while she rewrapped the jewellery on account of burglars – took off the tiara but tucked the heart into her teeshirt – cool eh, and put everything else into a supermarket bag beneath the leg-waxing bed which was the Beauty part of the salon. I sat on a sofa and read about Nicole and Karl. We discussed the durability of famous marriages. You should never believe what you read in magazines cos what did they know Lara said.

Just take your things off, she said which was easy advice but the only place to put my jeans was under the bed beside the jewels.

Lara ripped off a length of newsprint and smoothed it noisily over the bed.

On you go she said as if I were a horse.

I climbed onto the bed and the newsprint crackled. I took off my specs so that I wouldn’t have to see my legs, and with an easy stretch Lara lent across me and pulled a nylon curtain between the bed and sofa. At the same time, she ran an investigative hand down my left leg.

Hmm she said. When didya last get them done? She put on an apron. It’s a bit humid and the wax gets like tacky and a bit stringy. Don’t want to get wax on my clothes.

Can’t remember I lied. I could see a blur of local populace en route to the supermarket and hoped they couldn’t see me.

There’s going to be a wedding on the beach with a horse I said.

Lara loofahed my right leg and sprinkled it with powder.

I’m styling it she said – the wedding. It’s not cool, not cool to have a horse at your wedding if you can’t ride – someone could lift their hat or something; the horse could get a fright. I got three horses up the Valley. I do eventing. Go to Whangarei most weekends.

She’d only been at work on my leg for about five minutes when a car roared up and someone rushed into the shop. Lara looked up, a hairy strip of cotton in one hand, and leaned over the bed. She twitched the curtain open just enough for her face.

Oh, it’s you she said. Hi. Okay…if you want to do something, we got some jewellery that’s just come in. It’s awesome. You could, I dunno, hang it along the mirrors and stuff. Look. She opened the curtain wider, straightened, and pulled her heart out of her teeshirt.

Hey …Awesome…Oh hi Miss…

That’s Sushila. . She helps out now and then. How come you know her?

Miss is a reliever aren’t you Miss? You did our art class once. You showed us a painting of a ladder.

Hi Sushila I said wishing my jeans weren’t under the bed. Each leg looked so different even without my specs.. How come you’re not at school? Did you like that painting?

Na, not really Miss, but my mate Neon did. He said it wanted to excape. Gapped it today… Got all my credits. Don’t need to go no more. Hey Lara where’s da bling?

Under the bed said Lara. In that supermarket bag. Sorry she said. Turn over and I’ll do your backs. She won’t look but it’s a bit crowded here. She ran her hand over both legs. You got a few ingrowns. I’ll need to tweeze if they don’t come out with the wax which they probably won’t cos of the humidity.

That’ll hurt Miss said Sushila. Didn’t think I’d see you here. You look real different without your glasses Miss. Sushila’s large brown eyes and thick dark hair came close to my face. We do threading. It hurts hardout.

When does school end?

Two weeks Miss, But I finished. Okay Lara, I’ll hang them on the mirrors and what about on the pin-up board and I’ll wear – what do ya call that thing for your hair?

Tiara said Lara. See that Women’s Weekly? There’s a picture of the Queen in it. She got one on.

Na said Sushila. I don’t want to see no old queen. She pulled the curtain across and busied herself with the jewellery.

What are you going to do next year Sushila?

Hospitality Miss. Got me into a course in Whangarei. Hey Lara, your horse had its baby yet? Can I wear a ring?

Sure…I’m gonna have to tweeze said Lara. You got some real fence posts. Do you cross your legs a lot?

Sometimes I lied.

Well that’s how you get ingrowns. It must be soon said Lara, digging her tweezers into my calves. Yesterday I patted her stomach, and she tried to bite me which is not like her cos she’s like a real nice horse. You can tell when it’s coming cos wax starts coming out her nipples and bum and when that happens me and Mum’ll be up all night.

Gross said Sushila from behind the curtain.

You’re done said Lara…I got most of them – they don’t look as bad as before… Do you loofah?

When I remember.

Yeah, well, if you don’t want ingrowns…you should loofah…and also don’t cross your legs.

When I got home the manager of the motels next door came over and asked if he could park his car on my lawn on Saturday because of the wedding. Some vintage cars were coming and the owners didn’t want them to get wet or salty so he was lending them his garage. I asked if a horse would be at the wedding and he said yes and the service was going to be under the pohutukawa just beyond his motel and he was a bit worried about the weather.

On Saturday afternoon I saw the horse being led down the beach by the woman I’d seen before, a girl from the supermarket, and a teacher from the school who had her own horse. It lived in a paddock near the school and if I were relieving, I’d often see her hugging her horse before class.

The horse’s tail and mane were plaited, there was a yellow rose above her ear, and her side-saddle was polished and gleaming. The teacher unplaited her tail and brushed it out so it was a thick brown bush. She was called Mam King because she came from South Africa and Ms King in Xhosa is a rude word.

They led the horse to the lawn in front of the motel. The horse seemed calm and quiet and they fed her some carrots.

Further along the beach under the trees, were white plastic chairs on either side of a strip of red carpet held down with stones surrounded by circles of shells. There was a table covered in a fluttering white cloth also held by shells and stones, a large cassette recorder, and a book.

People drifted along the beach towards the chairs. There were lots of bare-footed children and women in low dresses carrying high-heeled sandals shoes and water bottles. The men wore dark glasses, black trousers and patterned shirts, and quite a few of them had bottles as well. Swimmers got out of the water and wrapped their towels round their togs and joined the wedding guests. Boys in yellow kayaks pulled them on to the sand and walked towards the chairs.  Everyone on the beach was coming to the wedding, even Claude the Canadian who was writing a book about his interesting life in India with a guru, his Swedish wife Freya who gave massages, and their two daughters who were home-schooled and wanted to be poets.

Eventually the bride came out of the Motel. She wore a slippery satin dress and a veil. It wasn’t such a warm day; it was still and silver, the sea a milky green with a dark blue band at the horizon. The water was very flat with small frothy waves at the water’s edge. Every now and then there was a spatter of raindrops. Someone said rain on your wedding day was a good Maori omen.

The bride was very young. She had long blonde hair with dark roots and pale skin. I was a bit worried about the veil – the bride and the bridesmaids kept fiddling with it, but it was fine and didn’t get caught up with the horse’s mane. The groom was also very young. He jiggled from foot to foot and he and the groomsmen kept thumping one another’s backs. They wore dark suits with open necked white shirts, and yellow roses like the horse. A photographer took photographs of the horse Mam King the girl from the supermarket and the woman who walked the horse. Then she took the bridal party in various combinations: the horse the bride and the groom, the bride, the groom, the bride and groom, the bride the groom and the bridesmaids, the bride and the bridesmaids, the bride and each bridesmaid. There were three in pale yellow dresses, gold strappy shoes  and they carried yellow and red gerberas. They stood in a huddle beneath a pohutukawa. Their dresses matched tips of pale new growth on the trees.

It was time for the bride to get onto the horse. She walked to the edge of the retaining wall of the motel lawn and the horse stood patiently below on the sand. Mam King with her large white towel polished the horse’s flanks and held the bridle. The bride took off her shoes, handed them to a bridesmaid and slid nervously onto the saddle. The girl from the supermarket smoothed her dress down because it had slid up to her thighs; the bridesmaid chucked her the shoes. The bride held on to the reins and stuck out her feet and the girl from the supermarket put on her shoes.  The other woman pulled an apple out of her jeans and gave it to the horse. The bridesmaids took off their sandals and jumped down onto the sand followed by the groomsmen. Everyone waited for them to put them on again and then they started walking towards the red carpet, the groom leading the horse, the bride with her head bent and her veil fluttering in the little wind. The bridesmaids’ shoes threw little clouds of sand round their dresses; they wobbled slightly and giggled and held on to the groomsmen.  The horse minders followed at a discreet distance. Someone pressed the cassette player, and One Love burst out over the beach.

We had that said a woman. It’s so great. It’s really lasted don’t you think Deb? Where’s Dave? Hey Dave. Come over here. We had that…Remember? She sings You say one love, one life we get to share it.

Two men in dark glasses and bare feet came up to the two women and Dave put his arm round the singing woman. He took a gulp of his water bottle. It leaves you baby if you don’t care for it he sang. They all laughed. What did you have Deb? he said.

Deb turned to the other man. Can you remember Hon? Can’t can ya Hon?

Too long ago, he said.

We had Eres Tu­ cos we actually met in a Spanish bar in Auckland…Oh but doesn’t she look gorgeous don’t you think? Who made Eve’s frock Trish? I bet it was Colleen, you know Colleen? Who makes those amazing dolls? A shame her mum and dad aren’t here, but Pastor Glenn’s been great, and Whitney’s an okay  kid.

The wedding party reached the red carpet. Mam King held the horse while Whitney reached up to help Eve dismount. She threw her flowers to a bridesmaid and the other two took off each shoe to make jumping easier. Her veil slipped to the back of her head. The bridesmaids shook the sand out of their shoes, handed Eve back hers and helped pin the veil back in place. One Love finished, and you heard the sigh of a wave and a tui in the pohutukawa. But someone pushed play again. Oh my love, my darling, I’ve hungered for your touch.

The Righteous Brothers said Trish. An oldie but a goodie.

Eve and Whitney held hands and walked slowly down the red carpet towards Pastor Glenn who stood in front of the table with his hands clasped. The bridesmaids and their partners followed and slid into the empty chairs in front of the table. Children were making sandcastles on the edges of the wedding: a whale with a curling tail, a turtle with a shell of stones, four fat legs and four round poos emerging from his hind legs, a shark with a giant fin made of driftwood.

Pastor Glenn was more formally dressed than everyone else with a red tie and blue suit. He smiled and waved and asked for silence and a few moments of prayerful reflection. The Righteous Brothers stopped and you could hear the sea and the tui again. He explained that they’d do the vows first and the rings, sign the register, and then he wanted to say a few words about marriage because it was a very important thing.

It was hard to hear Eve and Whitney say their vows because the sea suddenly seemed loud, and their voices quiet and shy.

Whitney looks nervous said Deb. God I need a smoke.

It’s often the guys who cry at weddings these days said Trish. The girls have done their crying before. Me too. Hope Pastor Glenn doesn’t go on for too long. He gets a bit you know carried away.

Eve and Whitney put rings on each other’s hands and Whitney tried to kiss Eve but Pastor Glenn said no, you haven’t signed the register, you’re not married yet. He led them to the table and they wrote their names.

Whitney said Pastor Glenn. Here is your wife, Eve. You may kiss her. Whitney put his arms round Eve and they embraced for a long time. People clapped and counted and shouted go for it Whit.

Now said Pastor Glenn I want to talk to all of you, those of you who are newly married, those of you who are thinking about getting married, those of you who are not married, even those of you who’ve been married forever like me and my dear wife – where are you Lynnie? She’s somewhere – she’s planning a bit of a surprise… because marriage is a great thing, the best thing, and Jesus was very keen on relationships.

Marriage is about loving each other rather than controlling each other, Pastor Glenn said. So Whitney wait a while before you tell her that you like your eggs lightly done, and never let the sun go down on your anger – 11pm is not a good time to start a fight and listening is far more important than talking. That’s why God gave us two ears and one tongue. Now, when He made the world, everything in it was good, except that when He made Adam it was not good, and do you know why?

Pastor Glenn was silent. What is it we all want folks?

This is what I mean said Trish. When he gets going…

I know said Deb. Were you at Kylee and Tiriti’s?

I know said Trish.

We want a mate, Pastor Glenn said. And Adam was alone in that garden… He was lonely. Now God could have made Eve from Adam’s foot but he didn’t, and do you know why? He paused again. He did not want Adam to crush her…He could have made Eve from Adam’s head, but He didn’t want Eve to boss Adam. So God in his great wisdom made Eve from Adam’s rib. And why do you think that was? Because his rib is closest to his heart and that’s what God wanted Adam to do – he wanted Adam to love Eve, and isn’t it a coincidence that Eve’s name is Eve?

Whitney and Eve were standing close together touching shoulders, but after Pastor Glenn started speaking, Whitney reached out and took Eve’s hand. He looked at her while Pastor Glenn spoke and stroked her hand. Eve sometimes looked at him but she also tried to look as if she were listening to the words about God and love and marriage.

I want to talk about the ring Pastor Glenn said. Gold is a precious metal; it can’t be tarnished or beaten and it’s circular – it has no end and no beginning. My ring has been on my hand for thirty-seven years. He waved his hand in the air. It has never come off. It never will.  That’s how marriage is – marriage is forever.

While he was talking a small blonde woman  and three little girls dressed as pink fairies moved among the crowd blowing bubbles. The bubbles floated over our heads and through the branches of the trees, they hovered and trembled and shook and caught shafts of light before bursting or dissolving. The children who’d been making the shark and the turtle scampered about chasing the bubbles,  trying to cup them in their hands.

Eve and Whitney said Pastor Glenn. Come to me. Let me hold your hands. I want to pray with you. He reached out and pulled them to his side so they faced us. Now Lynnie, where are you? Put those bubbles down for a minute – give them to one of the kids. That’s my Lynne folks – most of you know her, but here she is – she loves bubbles; she loves to spread the joy. Come and be with us Lynne and pray with us. And folks, I want you all to take the hand of the person nearest you and pray with us for Eve and Whitney’s marriage that it be long and fruitful. And pray for your own marriages too while you have this chance to talk to God. I can see that some of you are friends and some of you just happen to be on the beach and that’s a fine and blessed thing because here we are under God’s heaven. All together.

Dave and Trish and Debbie and Hon held hands. Hon looked at me.

Hi he said. Wanna hold my hand?


3 Responses to “At the Beach”

  1. Nadine Millar January 7, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    Just loved this story Catharina, in fact, it made me well homesick! For some reason it was Paekakariki to me (home of my heart, where horses are walked and people would gather and gossip in just such a way).

    The dialogue is perfect too, you really captured something in the salon, with your student (“it hurts hardout”) and your jeans poking out from under the table and the loofah and the steady stream of people outside heading for the supermarket. I laughed out loud.


    • sightbyte January 28, 2013 at 5:13 am #

      Hi Nadine, Thank you so much for liking this piece and I’m sorry for taking so long to reply. i still don’t know how to navigate my site – posting a blog generally takes all day and I don’t mean the writing! Hope all is well with you,

  2. spray tanning equipment March 18, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    I think that everything posted was actually very logical.
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Steph Matuku

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