A pair of slender, French-manicured hands reach inside the linen closet and yank me into the daylight so quickly, I blink in surprise at the bright, Lowcountry sun. “What a great shade of pink,” muses the owner of the hands, affectionately stroking my fibers before rolling me and stuffing me into a beach bag.
You’d think a beach tote indicates that she’s taking me to the beach. But honestly, we could be going anywhere – around these parts, beach bags are carried into restaurants, gyms, even doctors’ offices.
That said, beach towels such as myself are actually quite versatile to have around, so I’m not surprised. I’ve seen my share of action over the last few years, hanging around the Isle of Palms in South Carolina and wiping the saltwater from vacationers’ eyes.
But today, I think we’re actually going to the beach. My companion is wearing a bikini and is blasting beach-friendly tunes (Bruce Springsteen, my personal favorite) from her car stereo. The beach, naturally, is my favorite place to be, day or night. I love the daytime because I enjoy watching people; I love night because it’s a little bit calmer. After dark, I generally don’t get stepped on by dogs or snotted upon by children who’ve inhaled too much saltwater. And, frankly, the nights are more romantic. It’s usually me, a smooching couple and a wedge of brie.
One thing towels like me have to be wary of is other towels with unsavory attitudes. Summer on the Isle of Palms is crowded, and my corners, more often than not, are touching someone else’s. It’s fine, provided my neighbor is polite and friendly, and we joke about things in good humor. It’s not so great if I get sand in my face and a serious lack of civility from the next towel over.
“Oooh, I love your towel, Marie!” squeals one of my companion’s friends once I get spread atop the soft sand. Marie holds my four edges down in the breeze with flip-flops, a thermos filled with some sort of punch and a small radio blaring more static than Springsteen.
“Thanks,” Marie says back. “It was in the hotel room. I like it, too.” She giggles. “I should take it back to Ohio with me.”
OHIO? I ask myself in alarm. What am I going to do there? Sit on a grassy lawn and listen to stories about the Midwest?
“You should,” says Marie’s friend. “Good beach towels are hard to find.” Oh, how they go from insulting to flattering me so quickly!
Just then, a roving dog comes by and leaves dirty paw prints on my edges. Ugh. This is the reason that sometimes I’d rather stay draped on the back of a beach chair or even inside a canvas bag. It’s fun to rest on the beach itself and watch everything, but there are definite dangers.
Marie and her friends decide to get into the ocean, and I relax once they leave, stretching my corners taut so I feel like I’m twice my size.
“Hey, there,” says the towel next to me, obviously a male of the species. I look over; he’s dark blue with a hideous photo of a celebrity plastered across his face. The caption below the photo reads “Justin Beiber,” whoever that is.
“Hey,” I reply. “Nice day, eh?”
“Yes, ma’am.” The towel edges closer to me. His human companion appears to be elsewhere. “You live around here?”
“In the hotel. You?”
“I’m not local. This is my first time on the Isle of Palms. What are you doing later? Want to see if our companions hit it off?” This guy is being a bit forward.
“I don’t know,” I hedge. “My companion, Marie, is here with some other girls. I don’t know what their plans are.”
“Well, find out,” he insists, just as all the people return, dripping wet. Marie flops down on me with a sigh, stretching her brown limbs along my pink fabric. “What a gorgeous day,” she murmurs.
For a while, everyone is quiet. I think Marie has dozed off with her cheek against me. Then I hear someone shouting.
“Help me, y’all!” calls one of the girls, frantically darting back and forth along the edge of the surf. I think she’s one of Marie’s friends, but, since I’m lying flat on the beach, I can’t be sure.
“I’ve lost my sunglasses. They’re designer – I bought them at the Prada store. I can’t afford to lose them. But I’m not a great swimmer,” the girl yells.
Marie sits up. “Judy, are you awake?” she asks the girl next to her. “Claire needs someone to dive in after her sunglasses. You’re a good swimmer; go get them for her.”
“Claire needs to learn to buy sunglasses at the 7-Eleven for five dollars,” Judy grumbles, brushing the sand from her body as she stands and trots, unenthusiastically, I might add, toward the ocean.
“Oh, Judy, thank you so much,” Claire says a few minutes later, coming back to our group of towels and dabbing the edge of her sunglasses delicately with my corners. “Marie, this towel is so soft.”
I feel like a hero.
After the sunglasses snafu, the girls decide to pack up and go back to the resort for some lunch. Justin Beiber makes eyes at me as we all leave, but I ignore him.
“See those boys over there?” Claire gestures to the group of human guys with Justin. “They want to hang out on the beach later tonight. They told me they have a bottle of absinthe.”
The girls all giggle. “Maybe,” says Marie.
Like I said, there’s never a dull moment in the life of an Isle of Palms beach towel.
Original art by Ryan Collins.