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It was a lovely Saturday afternoon, and we were zipping across Trinity Bay in my friend Pat’s new speedboat, me holding onto my hat. We’d met up at the boat launch at Clear Lake Park, where I’d pulled up, parked and joined the group, jumping right into the boat. The sun was out and the water calm as we’d motored past Kemah and Seabrook, both packed with revelers.

Then, we were out in the middle of the bay, booking it toward San Leon, waving to other boaters as we passed. I felt freer—lighter—than I had in a long time. I was seated in the back, and Pat stood behind the wheel, his girlfriend Jenn on her feet next to him, the wind in her hair. We’d come a long way, I thought, since she first moved to Clear Lake some five years ago.

Before that, she and I both lived in Midtown, worked downtown, and hung out constantly. She started dating a cute guy named Pat who lived in Clear Lake but worked in the Heights. They got more serious, and then one day, she told me she was packing up and moving in with him. I was surprised by how hard the news hit me. It’s not like she was moving back to her hometown of New York. It was only Clear Lake, yet it seemed like another country. I’ll admit it: I cried. Bitterly.

It turned out, however, that the drive down I-45 to their house isn’t the arduous journey I’d envisioned. To this day, we still see each other plenty. My tears, I quickly realized, had been silly. Yet I don’t think I really got Clear Lake until that recent afternoon on the water.

Have you ever pulled up to a restaurant on a boat? If you haven’t, I can promise you: It’s as awesome as it sounds. After crossing the bay, we rounded a little peninsula and arrived at the salty town of San Leon, where we docked at Topwater Grill, hopped out, and were soon eating fish tacos and enormous peel-and-eat Gulf shrimp, watching the boaters motor in and out.

Pat told us all about how he’d lovingly restored his rig—a 2004 VIP runabout—which a buddy had let fall into disrepair before simply giving it to him. Though he’d grown up in the area, he’d forgotten how much he loved being on the water until he was back on board. In another lifetime, Pat told us, he and his wild friends trolled the lake in a legendary 47-foot Apache powerboat called the War Party. Some longtime residents, he said, still talk about it.

We pulled out of San Leon and headed back through Kemah to Taylor Lake, where we dropped anchor and bobbed along for a bit, listening to music and relaxing until the sun began to drop. For our final stop of the day, we docked at the pier in front of Chelsea Wine Bar, where we had a happy hour of cold white wine as we took in the busy little harbor before us, teeming with boaters and
paddle-boarders and kayakers.

In that moment, I thought back to that Midtown girl who viewed a move to Clear Lake as a tragedy, and barely recognized her.

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