Finding friends at a lifeguard chair

Students walk on the beach just after sunset

Medill cherubs on the beach. Photo courtesy of Myra Dwyer and Grayson Welo

We discovered the lifeguard chair in week two. At 9 p.m., clad in our Medill sweatshirts, the three of us — Mira Dwyer, Grayson Welo and Noah Somphone — raced to the Clark Street Beach.

Sand sifted through our toes. We climbed the rungs of the chair. Streaks of silver from the nearby lamppost reflected off the lake as we listened to Ed Sheeran’s “Tenerife Sea” intertwine with the hum of the water, setting the scene for another evening of advice and laughter.

After the 20th game of Never Have I Ever, we were ready for something new. Conversations at dinner became stale after the generic, “Where are you from?” and “What’s your school paper like?”

A new place might liven up our talks. So on day 10, with more free time in the evening, about 10 cherubs trekked to the beach. As the others walked along the beach, the three of us immediately spotted the empty lifeguard chair and bolted to it, laughing as we stumbled in the sand. Perched six feet above the ground, gazing at the water, conversation flowed naturally.

Night after night, groups of 20 or 30 cherubs would parade to the beach. But we three always gravitated towards the lifeguard chair — our own hideout.

The blue lights from the parking garage reflected off Lake Michigan, and we joked it was our own version of Gatsby’s green light. Noah compared the beach to the ones near his home in Southern California. We told stories about siblings and school friends, discussed our favorite lectures at cherubs, played the songs that make our hearts race and shared the names we have picked for our future children. (For the record, Noah likes the name Kaylee.)

There was no pressure to be funny or spill our most intimate secrets. Our conversations were easy. Our friendship was effortless. Sitting in the lifeguard chair, we were on top of the world together.

“This is exactly what I’ve been wanting,” Noah said.

Us, too, Noah.