You have been found guilty of despising work and committing the desire to get out of town. For your heinous acts, you have been sentenced to one year in a beachside condominium, which you will consecutively serve one or two weeks at a time every summer, until you are eligible for parole.
During transport, you will be crammed into a small vehicle stuffed beyond its capacity. Just when you think you have arrived you will wait in bumper-to-bumper traffic for three hours in ninety-three-degree heat. Just after checking in, you will find the pantry bare, and thus you will need to quickly scavenge for groceries for your stay. You will be given access to desalinated rust water.
You are required to pay all fees and unforeseen expenses in accordance with your stay. You are responsible for packing and lugging all necessary items to the facility. Should you forget shampoo, a shaving razor, a beach towel, or a pair of sunglasses, you will not realize it until arrival, at which time you, as a penalty, are required to purchase them for twice their value at a local store.
You are required to perform a minimum of one outing to the shore daily. This outing must be during the hours that the sun is at its highest. You will have to apply to your skin a sticky solution not guaranteed to fully protect you, and you must spend enough time with your bare flesh exposed to the radiation that your coloration is noticeably red. Ultraviolet rays shall pass through you until you are dead tired and in severe pain. Afterwards, you will look hideous, and your scars will mean that you have done time in a beach facility. The stigma will attract ridicule that you will be unable to escape for weeks.
You may be required to perform the labor of setting up a beach tent. The assembly must take place in the whipping winds with the sun in your eyes. The tent must be taken down within an unreasonable time so as to make it incongruous with the time you spend on the beach, and you must both put it up and take it down at least once daily. The tent will be one of fifteen to thirty items you will have to wheel across the sand in a wagon that will tilt and collapse at the most opportune moment—probably crossing the main road.
Expect to passive-aggressively fight other people for a space to set up. Expect to fight the wind and the sand and the water to keep that space for more than an hour. Expect to fight gulls for your food.
Your daily activity will require that thousands of grains of sand be enmeshed into your beach clothing, assorted gear, food, and personal belongings that you didn’t even take with you. Even if you spray your entire body off from head to toe with cold water from a hose, you will still find sand in pockets of flesh you didn’t know existed.
For lunch and dinner, you will be exclusively served expensive alcohol and maritime fare harvested from the briny trenches of the deep. The facilities will prepare items that must be batter-fried beyond recognition, scraped out of a shell, paired with horseradish, chewed profusely to get past the cartilage, or cracked open with medical cutlery and eaten in narrow slivers after dipping in butter. You will consume more wine and beer than is tolerable so that the following morning’s hangover will rob you of that peaceful sunrise stroll you were looking forward to. Alcohol and mercury will pass through your body until your liver is damaged.
Your beach incarceration will include one or more of the following mandated activities:
- The Sisyphean task of building structurally unsound castles out of unstable grains of sand that will collapse at the slightest touch and be swept away by the tide, exposing you to the gastrointestinal diseases that lurk between the moistened granules of broken shells.
- Throwing a ball, frisbee, hoop, or vinyl-wrapped, sponge-like projectile at one another with the sun in your eyes, only to plod across the burning sand in your bare feet after it sails on by you.
- Lying alternately on your chest and back in direct sunlight until you have sustained enough sun poison to induce a severe stinging sensation on your skin with every movement for the next week and a half.
- Fighting gulls for your food.
- Walking in a narrow passage between the dune and water, trying not to step on broken shells, jellyfish remains, or discarded fishhooks with your bare feet.
- Hating your body; envying the bodies of others who are more fit and tan than you; despising the bodies of others who are far too roasted, far too large, and far too arrogant to wear that bathing suit.
- Wading into the ocean, possibly with a foam board, while immense and indifferent waves assault you moment after moment, constantly at risk of drowning, being stung, being pinched, being bitten, or contracting a staph infection.
- Spending way more than you intended on a piece of literal garbage at a “gift shop.”
When you return to your room, the conch shell and photo of a dune and glass turtle and model ship and hanging sandalwood sign that says SALT LIFE are there to remind you that you are still in this place, and there is no leaving until your sentence is served. You will have plenty of time to lie on your blistered back and think about what you’ve done.