Boy, 7, Kidnapped,

Sexually Assaulted

At Main Beach swimsuited women played volleyball in the sand. Their ponytails wagged. Behind them the low waves crashed with a slow rhythm, stalling offshore, and reluctantly breaking on the empty beach. I climbed the winding steps I must’ve tread a thousand times in my life. Reaching the top I’d begun to labor and sweat, my cotton shirt wanting to cling like Saran Wrap. It didn’t seem so cool anymore and it was time I’d caught my breath. I rested on the crumbly ledge of a sandstone bluff. Ahead stood a wooden gazebo, and behind me was the twisting boardwalk at Main Beach. Up and down the boardwalk tourists took vacation photos they’d post as #lagunabeach and #canistay. A transient shouted her argument at an imagined adversary. Profanities echoed up to my quiet path. Seagulls stood on a swath of sand and watched the tumbling surf. It looked like low tide.

     I continued up to the gazebo. I knew it like a family member, like a favorite old uncle, if I’d had a favorite old uncle. The wooden octagon dated back to the Depression, constructed around the same time as the curving restaurant beside it. I knew all the lore from stories handed down, reminiscent tales of days gone by. But old age had set in. The dilapidating gazebo had to be demolished and rebuilt. The whitewashed restaurant showed the cracks of its age. As I passed the patio where happy hour crowds had celebrated fourteen thousand sunsets, the restaurant looked empty. Birds stood on a white capped outcrop. Waves lapped at the rock.

     I’d come to this vista by a worn path. I could have completed the journey blind but the handicap I carried with me was more than the hangover I’d lugged up the cliff. Last night was fun. I’d gone out for drinks with some old friends, one of them my defense attorney. But I wasn’t back in town on any warrant or anything. I’d just wanted to have a good time on my birthday and that we did. As hangovers go, this one seemed almost amiable—far from the dyspeptic cycle of nausea, catatonia, and regret that might move in with me for a week.

     I never told anyone why I’d come back and they never asked. I guess they must’ve figured  it was just for the hell of it. It’s Laguna Beach! Everyone wants to wake up Laguna Beach. I breathed in. I breathed out. Looking out at the Pacific, I searched for the line that separates sea from sky and forgot my headache in the muted hues of the missing horizon. The old gazebo stood empty. And so did I. Drained. I’d turned 43, and my life’s biggest achievement was that I hadn’t put a bullet in my head.

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This is a highly polished, profound, hard-hitting, and often humorous memoir with the potential to resonate at a deep level with survivors -J.S. Breukelaar, author of Aletheia and American Monster

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