Discover more from Stories of an Anxious Traveler
Life's a (Michigan) beach
Confessions of an awkward human
Hi, thanks for joining me this week! I’m Sasha - and I write memoir-style pieces on my 2+ years of full-time travel. If you’d like to share this piece, I’d love that!
I’m not sure if Michiganians have the same social bubble that Oregonians have.
I was liquifying in the heat of summer in 2019. Somewhere in Michigan. I had a dead RV generator and was slumping through the wetness that is the humidity of the Northern state.
On a Sunday afternoon, I had emerged from the trees, from the brush of a state park, seeking some form of breeze, and landed upon a lake beach. 100 meters or so away from the lake’s edge, I laid out a bath towel and placed by it a quickly warming store-brand soda and IT by Stephen King.
It was hot in the way that is uncomfortable, the way that made me shift constantly, searching for some relief. The sun had left tiny prickles of heat on my legs that I rarely uncover. Sweat gathered along the back edge of my swimsuit. Hot. Humid. I longed to go into the lake
Beneath a tree I half-sat half-lied on my ratty blue bath towel, willing myself to get up, walk towards the water, make my way between crowds of families and friends, sewing myself between blown up floaties and bags of chips and sand toys. Before me, at the edge of the water, an unleashed dog greeted groups of people who chatted amongst themselves. Small children’s arms were squished between colorful plastic, their chubbiness emerging like grilled cheese on either side of the fluorescent floaties. In the humidity, zinc sunscreen lingered at nose level.
From where I sat, the water was cool and blue. Refreshing. The crispness in the thick heat.
But I could not get up, not with the anxiety I carry in my bones. I weighed my options while I watched others. Laying back with my sarong a makeshift pillow, the sun glinted through my sunglasses onto my eyelids. If I waited long enough, I would find the courage to walk through the tickly grass to find a place along the lake that I could dip my feet.
I pondered falling asleep.
It was then that a group of people joined me beneath my very small tree--a tree so spindly and devoid of leaves that it offered no shade. A family of four was suddenly in my breathing space. If I reached out my arms, I could touch them. In a vast slope of available grass, I was entertaining guests. Two grandparents. A mother. A young child. Now I was frozen. I could not nonchalantly walk towards the lake after counting to one thousand but was forced to pretend I was sleeping. I needed to roll over though. I couldn’t see it, but I knew my face was tomato-colored from the heat. My treetrunks that I call thighs were probably splotchy from inadequate sunscreen application.
How long would I lie here? Until the had sun set?
My soda had been empty for minutes. I had a bottle of water but then I’d have to shift, show this space-invading family that I was, in fact, conscious, then fumble through my cloth bag that read, “Don’t judge my dog and I won’t judge your children.”
I stayed still a momen. Another passed. I squinted through my sunglasses. The grandmother turned to her daughter who had set out her thick-strapped woven lawn chair. Green and orange: the kind I grew up with at barbecues and camping trips.
“Sasha,” the woman said, not to me. I was startled. In a group of five of us, one stranger and four relatives, two of us were named Sasha.
If I had not been feigning sleep, I could have responded, said, “no way! That’s my name,” and we could have laughed. But the fake sleeping meant that in fact, I would look entirely too creepy. So in a sloppy mixture of social anxiety and thick air, I waited.
I could smell fresh new rubbery plastic, hear them complaining as they took turns blowing their wet lung air into the blow-up toys. They bickered a bit as the grandmother told Sasha that they should have gotten here earlier, should have brought more grapes in the cooler.
A bug landed on my arm. The unmistakable high-pitched fan of a mosquito. My chance had arrived. I swatted at it, sat up, just as the family was setting out towards the lake.
“Oh hi,” I said.
“Hope we didn’t invade your space,” the grandfather said, smiling at me. I smiled back, shoving my empty soda can into my ridiculous cloth bag, and shook my sweat-plastered head.
“No, no,” I said with the genuine politeness of someone who thinks sharing 10 square feet in a space of thousands is actually quite nice, “I should be getting going anyways. Pretty warm out here.”
“Sasha,” the woman said to the daughter again, “let’s get down to the water.”
I nodded, ever so slightly. They didn’t notice. I lumbered up the hill, and back into the thickness of the Michigan forest.
Thanks for traveling with me (and my anxiety),