It is Labor Day, and Tim and I drive to Malibu, to Zuma Beach. I asked many people for their company before I requested Tim’s on Labor Day. Not that Tim is Plan B, but I wanted a fun, adventurous day off, and Tim cannot provide that. But I am happy to get out of the city, to have my skin bare and warmed and toasted by the sun. And I love Tim, I do.
On the beach, I tuck into a ball. I bemoan the clouds. I shiver in cold. I squeal for a bathroom. I exclaim that one of my potential love interests has texted me again! Tim remains unaffected, stagnant, as if I had never tucked, moaned, shivered, squealed. Sometimes Tim will say, “I don’t care,” to solidify the fact he’s immune to anything I do, or say, or feel.
Some would say this is Tim’s great beauty – his steadfastness, his consistency, his unsociable but stable manner. Some would say this makes him safe, as he is accepting of both the good and bad. And certainly there is freedom with Tim, to an extent. I once showed up at his doorstep for dinner just having peed myself in the apartment lobby, and Tim remained expressionless as I said I needed a towel, a shower, shorts. Tim said, “Okay.” He offered no sympathy for my weak bladder but also no teasing, no disgust. He gave me what I physically needed. And maybe I should’ve been more grateful, but it led me to wonder if I mattered. If I mattered, wouldn’t I affect him? Wouldn’t he have a reaction?
I am in love with the reaction. Of all the clumsy, tactless things I do, most I can look back at with the Why and know they were done and said in a sort of lust, a hunger for the sweet unknown of the response. I want to set things into play. I want movement, conflict, progression. Acceptance or rejection, not bland, colorless tolerance.
Tim is a separate, self-sustaining entity. Tim rarely gives a reaction. I relish any moment in which Tim does react. For this reason I like being with him as he watches TV or stand-up comedy – so I can hear him laugh. I love when drama goes down with his roommates because he emits anger or even just irritation. These are simple, standard, expected emotions, but sometimes I forget that Tim is capable of feeling anything. And it is so delicious to remember that he is human, at least kind of.*
Tim wears short, striped shorts and tank top and and yellow sunglasses. He is all 50s on the bottom, 80s on top. I adore him completely, for reasons beyond what either of us can fathom. He lies beside me in the sand. An extra shirt covers his head, and I don’t know if he’s sleeping or not. I want to rouse him, to say, This is what I’m thinking about! These are questions I want you to answer! Why are you never overwhelmed by life like I am? But Tim would not be receptive or appreciative, whether awake or asleep.
Today Tim and I are both 24, pale-skinned, fresh-faced, unmarried, unattached. Both invested in a few people, and some stories, and maybe Jesus. There is little we both carry after that. But he is my friend, and I love him, and I think sometimes he loves me, too, in the small, odd way that Tim Decker is capable of love. I am glad his existence is overlapping with mine, but I often feel that’s all that it is – overlapping existences. Not affecting. Not sharing or growing or learning from or conflicting with.
Tim sits and reads as I walk into the waves. I do not intend to walk in past my waist; I want only to cool down, to combat the heat, but a wave takes me, and I am young and impressionable and unstable, and I skid across the sand, the suit I’ve had for five years rolling down my legs. I pull it up but don’t scramble for it – even if Tim saw parts of me where no man has gone before, he’d probably just shrug and continue reading the Guide to Freelancing book he brought along.** So I let another wave take me, and another, and I tell myself to Feel Peace, to Be One with Your Context, to Look for God. I float on the water, bare stomach to blue sky, and am still all questions. All questions I will not be posing to Tim.
The day’s deep, unhindered heat dries my hair into tight curls and a frenzy of knots. Back in the car, I say, “I’m curious as to what my hair looks like right now,” and Tim turns to me and says, “It looks like the ocean.”
*Robert asked me once why I love Tim, and I said because Tim is always himself, no apologies, and Robert said that sometimes it’s better for people to not be themselves.
**I brought an Anne Lamott novel, All New People, which was incredibly lovely. On the drive back to Tim’s apartment, I paged through it to read aloud all the passages I’d underlined, like this one: “In a way I’ve never quite understood, the veil tore an inch for me that day, like it does every so often, when in the midst of all that is mundane and day-to-day, there’s suddenly a tiny tear in the veil, and you see the bigger and brighter thing, and then the veil repairs itself, and the day goes on as before.” I asked Tim what he thought, and he said, “Well, I don’t think I want to read that novel.”