A timely June Gloom haze lingered over damp gray sand. The early morning sun showed vague intentions of prevailing through the thick marine layer. A light ocean breeze gently fanned the volleyball nets loosely constructed across the beach. I sat shivering under a towel, having lacked the foresight to bring a sweatshirt. I looked at my phone, set to airplane mode. 8:05. The tournament schedule read, “Play begins at 8:00 AM,” but, as I promptly learned, following the schedule was a rookie mistake.
The majority of the tournament participants had arrived to the resort the night before with enough time to transition their day drinking into the night at an appropriate pace. Due to poor planning and an inflexible work schedule, I found myself making the drive down from Los Angeles alone, with only some screenshots of Google Maps and patchy recall from my 9th grade Spanish class to navigate a successful arrival. I finally joined the party well into the night, greeted with an non-negotiable tequila shot and a collectively slurred “Bienvenidos a Rosarito!”
Given my late arrival, I had little faith in any attempt to play catch-up. My weekend was just getting started. I was content with being the coherent eyes and ears for the night, even without knowing then I would more than make up for it. Despite the air mattress I called being swooped by some Brody Jenner lookalike in my group, leaving me with no choice but to share a bed with the known sleep-farter, my first night was fairly uneventful.
As the haze thinned, the crowd slowly filtered onto the beach and I began asking around for my partner, as one does. This particular tournament worked in a blind draw format, which means partnerships are randomly assigned and the pairings are announced the morning of. I found my partner, Sasha, a woman in her late 30s with bleach-blonde hair, huge fake boobs, and a crippling hangover. With my lingering tendonitis and my washed-up-but-still-kind-of-a-try-hard attitude, I was relieved. At this tournament, there are people who go to win, and people who go to drink. As long as your objectives match those of your partner, you’re in good shape. Sasha and I both found ourselves on the latter end of that spectrum, a victory we celebrated with a beer.
I was still climbing the intoxication-versus-athleticism bell curve when I heard a new spectator cheering for us and heckling my partner. After our first game, we joined him on the sand as we waited our turn to play again. “This is my buddy Trevor,” she introduced. Then, she gestured toward me, “Trevor, this is my partner, Fawkes. She’s cool as fuck.” I appreciated her endorsement. I didn’t know Sasha that well, but I could gather from what little I knew that a vouch from her goes a long way. Some people have that.
The three of us hit it off swimmingly. And sure, at first glance, Trevor appeared to be decent-looking. But taking into account his old baseball cap (which, from experience, led my mind to automatically extrapolate baldness) and sunglasses that looked like they had been stolen from Guy Fieri’s Goodwill pile, I wasn’t in a position to make a definitive call.
By way of small talk, I learned Sasha and Trevor both lived in northern San Diego and were staying with a huge group at the same hotel as me. The conversation pretty quickly turned to dirty jokes, a topic I never initiate among new people, but always allow. Given the green light, I hit the gas. We talked porn, dick sizes, anal beads, the positive effects of celery on a man’s libido. We drank more beers, Sasha and I won our next two games at the top of the drunken sports bell curve, took a sharp nosedive to lose the fourth game, and the three of us headed to the bar.
We reunited with my group of friends, whom I introduced to Sasha and Trevor. Sasha, as I suspected, needed no introduction. She immediately hit it off with the Brody Jenner lookalike I was almost ready to forgive for subjecting me to a high risk of pink-eye the night before, which gave Trevor and me a chance to break from the group.
I wasn’t sure if it was the beer, his willingness to cover topics such as smegma within ten minutes of meeting me, or the removal of his terrible sunglasses and hat (dispelling my initial assumption – he had great hair), but something somewhere let me know I was beginning to pick up what Trevor was putting down. We stood side by side, leaning up against a mezzanine level railing overlooking the dance floor. We asked each other about where we each grew up, what we do for work, and he asked me how long I’ve lived in LA. When I told him, I could sense him doing the math. I knew what his next question would be.
“How old are you?” He asked.
I smiled. “Twenty-three.”
“Huh.” He paused. I remained silent, turning to look at him. “And how old do you think I am?”
I hate this game. I’ll admit, there’s a much more forgiving margin of error for men than for women, but at least most women are smart enough not to fucking go there in the first place.
I squinted dramatically, hoping my reluctance showed. The sun had just set and the strand of Christmas lights above his face was bathing him in dim, flattering light. “Thirty-five?” I asked. It was a sincere guess. He could pull off 28 if it weren’t for the specks of gray in his stubble and the goofy dad-glasses he wore earlier, which I told him.
“That’s flattering, I guess,” He chuckled. He hesitated before answering, “I’m forty-three.”
“Cool,” I said too quickly, in a too high-pitched voice, while nodding too enthusiastically. It wasn’t weird, right? We’re just two new friends getting to know each other. It’s not like we were thinking this was going to lead to anything beyond a few beers together, anyway.
Then, I began trying to mitigate my damages internally. I considered the fact that I have friends whose fathers are the same age. That we’re in different generations. That I was in preschool when he was my age. I wanted it to creep me out, but it didn’t. We were connecting, even if just for the moment.
I looked at Trevor to see if his thought process in any way mirrored mine. Standing upright, he turned to look me in the eye. I met his gaze and moved closer. His hand found the small of my back while the other guided my face up to meet his.
Our first kiss quickly deviated toward sloppy drunken make-out territory as the day’s booze caught up to both of us. The rest of the night was blurry. I remember Trevor doing a lot of things I would probably describe as “old guy behavior” if I wanted to be a dick. He took panoramic photos at the bar, ordered a gin (in Mexico), and asked me if I played Words With Friends, as examples. Despite all of this, it felt right for reasons I couldn’t explain, from the first inappropriate conversation to the barefoot stumble through the sand back to our hotel.
I felt a breeze on my face before opening my eyes. I squinted into the light pouring in from the open window and began to calibrate my surroundings. I wasn’t next to the sleep-farter. I wasn’t next to anyone. I deliriously sat up and began taking inventory of my belongings when the door opened and Trevor emerged with two glasses of water.
“Hey, kiddo,” he half-joked.
“Please don’t say that,” I half-joked back.
We said goodbye, I found my way back to my room, and I hit the road. With plenty of time to reflect, I did so fondly at my recap of the weekend. It had never crossed my mind until now that I hadn’t gotten Trevor’s number, but the realization didn’t kill me. I respected the whimsical nature of the setting and observed that our flirtation wasn’t to be taken out of context. In the moment, it felt right, but there clearly wasn’t a place for us outside of the moment.
I crossed back over the border and switched my phone off airplane mode. Pending notifications rolled in over the span of a few minutes. I stopped for gas in Orange County and scrolled through the notifications until one text from an unsaved number caught my eye.
“Hey it’s Trevor. Really great meeting you. I’ll text you when I’m in LA next weekend and we can work out a time for you to come down here.” .