The dead man lies on the beach, and no one is excited about it. I take out my new notebook and begin writing. This will probably be my first article with the credit, by Brandon Resnik, for the newspaper. Those around continue on with their lives. It is the middle of the afternoon. The temperature is high. Nearly unbearable.
Three nights ago, I went on a date with her. She is a journalist. It's unfortunate she left after a mere 10 minutes, but things like that happen. It could be worse. Now I hate journalists and I want to become one myself. I must become a journalist.
The man lying lifeless in the sand has a tattoo on his shoulder. It consists of six or seven Cyrillic letters. I write this sentence and underline it: "Russian tourism is steadily growing.".
A couple hugs halfway between the dead man and the water line, their backs to the corpse. They both glance at the windsurfers who aren't fearful of death. Especially when the waves are coming at them. It is impossible to separate their joyous cries from the scene. They have a better perspective on life from where they are. It's harder to see all the colors of life when you're ten yards or so from the corpse.
Two children are being pushed away by their mother. They came to see the dead man. They may have built a palace in the sand, dug a pit and poured water into it, or warned bathers that jellyfish were in the water before seeing him. The mother would prefer they stay away. She tells them that this is not something they should be watching.
As I sit in front of the body, I try to imagine what the dead man was like in his youth. What his mother looked like. That first voyage to the sea. The bucket he kept in his hand. The small rake. Tears. But not in my eyes. Since I became a journalist, I am no longer in need of tears.
I know another journalist who often cries. She has a sensitive nature. To my humble mind, too sensitive. Anyway, we two are opposites. We speak once in a while, but the one time I invited her over for coffee, she became ill immediately, and it took her two weeks to recover. Despite her kind words and her attempts to convince me that it wasn't the coffee, I knew all along it was the coffee. No, not the beans, but the owner. Ultimately, I accepted it.
A woman in her forties returns to the scene after calling an ambulance. The colorful bathing suit she is wearing seems inappropriate for such a tragic event. There was this guy before her who had pulled the dead man from the water and attempted to revive him. They are now speaking. I try to listen to what they have to say, but the waves are stronger than their words, no matter how important they may be.
In the distance, an ambulance siren can be heard. It is much louder than the waves. This may be our ambulance. There are another twenty people within a 100-yard radius who don't do anything special about the dead man. Some lie on the sand, some on an easy chair, under an umbrella. Someone brought a folding chair from home and held on to an umbrella someone else had paid for. My new journalist's notebook fills up with notes as I stare at him. Upon noticing me, he extends his hand, asking if I need anything.
My mind wanders back to the date I had with that journalist. I try not to, but it happens. She's stronger than a corpse. I guess we all are. What would she have said about what happened today at the beach if she were to open up the report. I imagine she would have taken a tone of shock. Or perhaps she would have chosen the facts-only tone she specializes in, a report that seems emotionless but actually appeals to all of your senses.
For a moment, I picture us in her apartment. If our date had lasted longer, we might have made it there. I believe it could be called alternative history. She shows me where she works. Most of her writing probably takes place at the dining room table. She tells me that sometimes she takes the work to bed. She shows me that workspace as well. There are books about journalism everywhere, even under her bed, and all of it looks very professional.
In front of me, people pass close to the body. Everyone ignores it in their own way. I mark a possible first headline for the article: 'Indifference at Orange Beach'. The second headline reads: ‘Yet another disappointing day for the lifesaving association’ (bad headline), while the third one says: ‘Why did she dump me?’
The paramedics arrive. There are four of them. Two men and two women. It has been more than 15 minutes now, since the woman called them. They are quickly approaching the body of the dead man, as the surfers, fresh from their adventure, return to shore. There are four of them too. They look so lively and alive.
The glory of lying dead on the sand is quick to pass. Soon he will no longer be here. He will never be in the news again. Bulletins will gradually diminish his importance. This man might get another last report if the body is flown to Russia. But it will definitely be the last.
He's about to be taken away. The surfers' faces are very serious now, but you can tell they are still at their peak of excitement underneath. They may not approach the paramedics or the body more than six feet away. That's not a covid protocol, but something else. They are not frightened by what they see. For now, anyway.
In just a few minutes, the beach will be back to normal. Now it's up to me. His last moments are in my hands, and I won't let him or myself down. He is me, and I am him. Some rewriting will be necessary. As long as I do exactly as my acquaintance does, this will be my first article published.
Instead of calling my journalist friend about how the report should be written, I call the other journalist. The one I dated. I just want to tell her how I felt offended. While I am sure she will hang up, at least I spoke my last words.
"This is Brandon, Guess where I am," I tell her.
"I don't know, where?" She asks and immediately lets me know someone is with her right now, and that she can't talk much.
"How long will you be busy?" I ask. It's a stupid question so I immediately continue: "I'm on the beach. There used to be a dead man lying here, in the sand, among everyone. I wrote how they went on as if nothing had happened. What indifference. What a shame."
"So that's how it really was?" she asks.
"I'm not sure," I reply, wondering if perhaps my report was a bit biased against the surfers and others who gathered around because they cared about him. In addition, there was that woman who had called 911 in such a state of excitement. I only have a second left before I hear her voice again, and in that second I imagine what it would be like if we one day worked for the same newspaper.
"Okay, so bye for now," she replies.
The time has come for me to lay in the sand and spread my legs and arms out. I look up at the sky. My breath is still coming, so I'm still alive. In comparison to the dead man with a tattoo on his shoulder, I am far different, and that should make me thankful.
The scribble on my first journalist's notebook looks like anger when I look at it. I don't remember doing that scribble, but I probably did. As I stare at the beautiful sunset, I tell myself that it's a natural anger and will pass once no more people die on the beach in the next hour. I still have thoughts. She really is extremely gifted. I read all her articles. There wasn't a single one I missed. I loved them all. Every word.
This feels so sad.
Yes, It would be wonderful to be a journalist reporting on what happens.
My next move is to lift myself off the sand, shake off as much as I can of my clothing, and begin walking. Every step is a step in the right direction, I tell myself. I am proud to be a journalist. A new beginning awaits me.
Then I walk along the Street and up the old boulevards. When I arrive at the apartment, I see her standing by the door, smiling. For a moment, I reach for the notebook in my pocket and think I must have gone crazy. She says that after a particularly unpleasant evening with the man with whom she had a 27-day relationship, she reconsidered our date and decided to give it another shot. I had no idea journalists had such privileges.
What a story I have now, I think. A great story. It's sure to impress. It will be front page news. The headline will tell it all. Maybe we'll win the Pulitzer together. So I open the door to my apartment. Here we are. She comes in first, then I.
"And how are you?" She asks.