Sand Between My Toes

An article from our collection: Life's A Beach, Then You Die

Ashley Vernola and James Sweeney


I just love it. I just love the sand between my toes. Don’t you?

It’s really the quintessential image of relaxation: just kicking back, holding a cold beer, nestling your toes in the sand. Who doesn’t enjoy sitting on a warm, sunny beach and feeling the miniscule grains of the Earth, post-erosion, massaging the very delicate corns of their feet? Listening to the crashing waves like orchestral gongs, a clamor of natural war, crawling in vibrations up your spine until--

Whew! Let me not get too worked up just yet! I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about Karen.

You may know Karen -- I’m sure you’ve seen her around. She works with us! She has brown hair and brown eyes. She’s average-looking; average in height, fairly… average overall. Yeah. Anyway, she doesn’t like having her toes in the sand, and might not even enjoy relaxing in general, and possibly hasn’t ever smiled.

How do I know all that? Well, she, in her own very Karen way, told me. Was she direct about it? Of course not! This is Karen we’re talking about here. Does that matter? Hell no. A woman always knows. Call it what you like: “women’s intuition,”  “the Female Chillness Gauge,” “Business Bitch Radar,” etc. A woman always knows.

Let’s be clear right off the bat, though: It can’t be the sand. It’s really probably not the sand. What could she possibly dislike about sand? Sand is the Earth’s only gift to us. The Earth works so hard to push its waves back and forth against those rocks, allowing chunks of Herself to float in oceans and rivers as they slowly, over time, transform into sweet, soft, wispy sediment for all of us to enjoy and appreciate. Is Karen more than just wrong? Is she...ungrateful?

Or is it her feet? I’ve never seen her wear open-toed shoes and, as a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve seen her bury her bare feet in any substance. Is she embarrassed of her feet? Maybe it’s some sort of sex thing -- everyone today is so sexual. Having your toes in the sand is not some kink!

Could she really be that uptight, though?! I don’t know a whole lot about Karen, to be honest, but I’m pretty sure we can assume she enjoys relaxing. I mean, we all love relaxing. Who doesn’t love relaxing? She seemed to really love relaxing when she took off three weeks last June for a “Family Emergency.” And believe me when I tell you that she very clearly didn’t go to a beach in that whole time. She came back looking and smelling like she spent three weeks at an Indiana State Fair. And for all I know, that’s exactly where she went! That would certainly explain all the crying she was doing in the breakroom before she flew out.

Maybe she doesn’t like putting her toes in the sand in the same way she doesn’t like sugar in her coffee. Maybe...maybe it’s a grain thing?

I just wish I could get past all of her passive-aggression and explain to her what it’s like. I wouldn’t be rude about it. You know me. I’d simply say:

“Karen, you are wrong. Even talking about putting my toes in the sand makes me crave it, and I don’t understand how you can just dismiss that. Try, for once in your life, to empathize. Just try it! Imagine me sitting on a beach chair. I’m sitting back. My head – it’s tilted back. I’m relaxed. I kick off these slips and let these babies free -- my toes, I should say. Off with a sandal, and then off with a flat -- I wore mixed shoes to the beach. Sue me.  There goes a sock, and then another. Yes, I wore socks with a flat and a sandal. I’m as carefree as the baby Jesus, Karen, and this Christ-like contentedness is only amplified by the freeing of nine-and-a-half of my foot’s finest fingers. My dogs are barking, Karen. My piggies are squealing, and the only thing that can mend them is some good ol’ time in the only desert designed especially for toes. The tips of my feet caress the beach dust and leave in their wake the destruction of a million tiny worlds. We touch like star-crossed lovers, the sands and I, and it is violent passion that contains us. We are Romeo and Juliet, minus the underage stuff. We are Bonnie and Clyde, minus the stupid names. I can feel a warmth grow inside me as I dip beneath the Earth’s warm crust. I am encompassed, once warm to cold; a beautiful intermingling of miniscule grains and bits of lint from when I wore socks just to spite you. My toes curl almost automatically. I can feel a tingle reverberate up my spine -- I shudder, all of my senses enlightened at once. My breathing slows. My head tilts back, and from this position I can at first make out a receding shoreline, followed by a swelling. A great swelling which will swallow me whole forever and -- “

Oh my god, Debbie. You are actually the worst listener I’ve ever met. How many times do I have to say it’s not a sex thing for you to shut up and let me finish my point? You’re seriously reminding me of someone right now -- I’m not even gonna say it, because it’s too mean -- but I think you can probably guess. Anyway, you’re worthless.