In the gray days of February, it's nice to occasionally run away to memories you hold of times spent in sunshine, in heat both actual and metaphorical, times had on the beach, and also to run away to future memories in such spaces, to play out these scenes of you lying on sand naked in the sun next to a lapping shore with a faceless someone or someones at your side. A frequent setting for these memories and imagined future memories is Fire Island. Hearing the name of the place, reading it or saying it, hearing someone else say it, this itself brings about a certain happiness, a happiness stemming from reliving certain moments, yes, but also a happiness borne out of the certainty that there is in fact happiness in this world of an ecstatic sort, the type of happiness it's easy to forget actually exists in the world on rainy gray mornings in late winter when you are standing at your job listening to terrible jazz covers of Beatles songs.
And so it was a bit jarring yesterday to read news stories that appeared in my Facebook feed saying that bans on nudity were now going to be enforced on Fire Island.
It seems like the end of something. It's part of what made the place so magical, contributing to the feeling of freedom that the place seemed so full of on certain summer days, that this was some refuge just a short distance away from New York City, but something entirely else - an island with no cars, little cell reception, deer everywhere, and naked people lying on the beach treated like it should be, like no big deal.
And so now there is a point of demarcation. There are the numerous memories of prior summers spent lying naked on stretches of sand with boyfriends at the time, with guys I had crushes on at the time, with friends, and there are still memories I hold clearly of certain men who were near me on the beach, this one guy in particular with an insane body. I remember the thrill I got watching him take off his Speedo and lying in the sun, the distinct and striking tan lines, the white ass, the tan body. Fire Island is a fever dream, a fantastical realization of the dreams this particular gay man sometimes has on gray days in late February as he looks for something else in his life, an escape from what it has become. There are those memories and there will now be future ones absent those sexy ripped guys, who after playing paddle ball on the sand, stretched out on their towels and shyly removed their speedos, showing off their skin, beautiful, to the sun, and also to neighbors looking out of the corner of their sunglasses as discreetly as possible.
I'm sure there will still be men encountered with pants around their ankles stroking their dicks furiously in the Meat Rack. There will be still beautiful bodies to look at and pleasant deliriums brought on by excessive time in the sun, by salt-parched skin, by the sight of so much beauty, human and otherwise, on display. The news though did bring about a certain sadness yesterday, sad that human prudishness rather than relaxing with the march of time still constricts tighter and tighter in the twenty-first century, and sad that there will be a distinction now between past years and future years, more of the ability to mourn an era's end. Summer ends every year sometime in the hazy border between August and September. The air gets chillier and we awake from our pleasant dreams into autumn. Months go by, fall turns into winter, winter into more winter, and I dream of that time more and more. I read the name of that island in a news article talking about legal changes to the place. I intone it over and over, clicking my heels three times, and I am surrounded by skin, by sand, by water, and by an incredibly bright, shining sun that embraces and takes everything, all of it, in.