After Geoffrey finished grading final exams, we headed south to the Manta Ray Cove ready to escape our real lives for a few weeks, like other vacationers, Clusters of people spread across the waterfront, out for an afternoon of sunbathing, swimming, and ice cream, something I knew we wouldn’t be doing. Long lines of cars crowded residential streets as drivers searched for the home they had rented, borrowed, or bought as part of some timeshare deal they might regret later. Music pumped from every open window: fast rhythms, dance beats, the sound of brass instruments and vibrant voices singing catchy lyrics about summer. And Geoffrey scoffed, rolling up the windows.
We lugged our bags inside the two-story, architectural beauty, its long windows overlooking miles of water, the wood furniture newly polished, the ebony-stained floors smooth, slippery, a cause for concern later.
“This is amazing,” I gave myself a tour of the house, oohing and aahing at fixtures, artwork, crown molding.
“Let’s unpack later,” Geoffrey rushed, setting a stack of books on the coffee table. “There’s a little spot not too far from here we can go and get some lunch.”
“Clam chowder?” I guessed.
“I did mention it a couple times on the way,” he realized.
“Yep…a couple,” I teased.
“Don’t,” he warned, motioning for me to walk out the front door.
At the top of the hill, cars were diverted left to a small parking lot, and pedestrians turned right onto a strip of eateries, gift shops. and gambling spots for those who felt lucky. The sound of fun carried on the wind; triple-scooped waffle cones were consumed by couples wearing matching tees and visors; seagulls lurked, swooping in for crumbs and spills while sad toddlers and disappointed dads lamented the loss.
Geoffrey stood in line while I claimed a table, a small one next to a clam statue. I reached out to touch the tarnished shell but pulled my hand back before it touched the surface, taking a second to think about the grounded yet adaptable mollusk, how I never realized the similarities between us.
With two bowls of steaming hot chowder on a tray, Geoffrey approached. I smiled as he placed a bowl in front of me.
“It’s delicious,” the woman next to us said. “We come here every year,” she pointed to her husband and he nodded.
“It looks delicious,” I agreed.
“Yes,” Geoffrey joined, and sat with his back to them. “Eat up before it gets cold.”
I tasted the chowder and stared out at the water, safe for now inside my shell.