Drama at Main Beach

Main Beach in East Hampton
Main Beach in East Hampton
Getty Images

The first day that felt like summer in the Hamptons was May 14. The temperatures had been in the 40s the prior week. Now, suddenly, it was 70 degrees.

Exhilarated, I got in my car and, drove into town, did a few chores and then headed down to Main Beach to watch the scene there and eat a sandwich I’d bought at the Golden Pear Cafe. At the beach, there’s a group of seven parking spaces side by side facing the ocean at the road’s end. In-season, beachgoers get picked up or dropped off there. Parking’s free for 15 minutes. Out of season, one can have a sandwich, read the paper or contemplate the universe. Nobody bothers you. I wondered what it would be on this warm day. Winter or summer?

Turned out, there were just two cars in that row. One was a pickup truck with two surfboards strapped to the roof. Out beyond the breakers, two surfers in wetsuits sat on their boards, watching carefully for something rideable. The sea, not cooperating, was offering up a slow-rolling surf that boomed when it crashed on the shore. The gulls circled overhead.

The other car in the row was a black Mercedes SUV, freshly washed and polished. Directly in front of it down by the water’s edge I saw a tall, broad-shouldered man in a bathing suit, a small, stocky woman in street clothes and three children, about 5, 4 and 3. The children were running around. The tall man would catch one and carry him overhead, splashing into the surf where the incoming seawater could rush up and create fountains of water swooshing up his ankles. The child squealed with delight. The man then turned around and splashed back to the others. Now they were digging tunnels and building sandcastles.

There was something odd about this, however. The stocky woman wasn’t acting as if she were part of the family. She’d run after a kid if he wandered off. But then she’d set him down with dad.

I unwrapped and ate my lunch. I also had a soft drink. When I looked up, things had changed. It had only been a few minutes. But now there was another adult, a stunningly beautiful woman in tight-fitting workout clothes, with this family scene. Perhaps she’d been jogging down the beach a while.

The stocky woman deferred to her as she interacted with the children. And with that, I thought I’d figured it out. She was the beautiful wife who had borne these children. The stocky woman was the nanny.

A few minutes later, the man and woman began walking up the beach toward the car, leaving the nanny with the kids. As they came toward me and the Mercedes, I could see what a match they were. She was blond and graceful, he was brawny and barrel chested. They were both in their 30s. But though they walked side by side, there was too much distance between them.

With the surf crashing behind them, I could not hear what was being said. They stopped and faced one another about 10 feet before the cars. He had a deep, commanding voice. Wall Street? Business? In response, her voice was high and stressed. And there was no eye contact. He’d say something. She’d smile, a sarcastic smile, then reply, her voice shrill. He’d say something else. Seemed all right to him. But she crossed her arms, then tapped her foot.

The encounter ended abruptly. He remained where he was, but she turned away and strode toward the Mercedes, then walked past it and up the road. There had been no goodbyes.

“Aren’t you getting in the car?” he asked loudly.

She kept walking. Then, without turning, she spoke.

“See you at the house,” she mumbled. She was talking too softly for him to hear. But I could hear her. He shrugged, turned, and sauntered down the beach to the children and the nanny. And that was that.

Ten minutes later, when I finished my lunch, I started my car and drove back up Ocean Road toward town. I thought I might pass her jogging, but I did not.

There’s a moral here: I think it’s “Money Can’t Buy Happiness.” But you knew that. I drove toward home. Lots of good things are happening at home.

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