It was our first getaway since the pandemic began, and only our second venture off Cape. The intent was to meet up with an old friend, her husband, and daughter for a relaxing weekend at a seaside resort. Embracing the new normal – or at least acknowledging it – we wore masks and didn’t hug or shake hands.
To our surprise, another mutual friend had made the trip, along with her husband and children. Mary and I looked at each other, but otherwise tried to hide our concern.
Then, another family we didn’t recognize came through the door. They clearly knew our friends, and quickly made themselves at home. The father thrust his baby at me in an apparent gesture of instant friendship. The baby cried immediately.
Our dog Tito, always nervous around new people, was quite agitated, so Mary took him outside. A minute or two later, I followed, realizing that we might have to rethink this whole weekend. I couldn’t find Mary in the yard immediately surrounding the house, so I thought she might have taken a walk nearby.
The neighborhood wasn’t nearly as upscale as we thought it would be. Very few homes appeared to belong to permanent residents, giving the community more of a transient vibe than we had expected.
The boardwalk and pier had seen better days. The arcade was sprawling and noisy, but only sparsely attended. A large food court and seating area was nearly empty.
I crossed a bridge from the boardwalk to a residential area on the other side of a narrow canal. Many houses were boarded up or abandoned, with some evidence of squatters past and present. A man came out of one of the houses wearing a mask and some freshly splattered white paint. Surprised to see me, he began muttering to himself, although it occurred to me that he may have been trying to talk to me. I didn’t stay around long enough to find out.
Retracing my steps, I passed a convenience store with an upstairs balcony. Leaning out was a man in a carnival barker’s uniform, shouting some unintelligible nonsense at me. I picked up my pace and crossed the bridge over to the boardwalk.
A small band of musicians began playing for the dubious entertainment of a virtually non-existent crowd. Their song lyrics were intended to parody old classics. For example, to the tune of “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” they sang “Has Anybody Seen My Drink?” I kept walking, but woke up before reaching my destination.