The morning before the first attack, a Tuesday in August, I woke up early, as I do in summers. I did the usual things. I shut off the outside lights and turned on the kitchen fan. I made coffee. I took yesterday’s beach towels out of the dryer where I’d put them the night before, because it looked like it would rain during the night and there is nothing worse than wet towels on the line, and I folded them and put them in the basket by the door. Upstairs, children—my own, a school friend, a cousin—were asleep. At the kitchen table I slipped into the vortex of the news, and read for an hour. Our house is mile from the oceanside beach, down a road stitched by lichens and lined with blackberries; in the other direction, a few hundred yards, a farm stand sells tomatoes and zinnias. The route to the beach takes you to a parking lot at the top of a sheer dune cliff; from the edge you can see straight into the water, forty yards down, which can look green as the Mediterranean or gun-metal grey. Most mornings I put on a bathing suit and a big shirt and walk to the beach and go for a swim. The beach is deserted then, except for a few dog walkers. Sometimes there is no one. The water is freezing. On the beach, I take off my bathing suit in the open air and change into the shirt. On the top of the dune path I pick up my shoes where I’ve left them and walk home.
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