Sunday, April 17

Fonder of Beaches

Perhaps it is strange for me to hope so, but I wish I were fonder of beaches. I spent half my life a five-minute walk from the beach. Admittedly the beach was not the most pleasant; grey sand and brown water and British weather. Some beaches are lovely, but not that in particular. I remember one summer – perhaps our first in the house – we spent a lot of time down the beach. A specific afternoon occurs to me, now that I sit here sixteen years later, when the sea was perfectly still; not since have I seen such a still sea. I swum out, beyond the depth of my treading legs, and hung there in the water that obscured even the pale skin of my shoulders as they fluttered. I lowered my body until only my eyes upward were above the water. Across the unmoving water I saw for miles, right over the horizon and the curvature of the earth. It amazed me that something so large and magnificent could remain so motionless, so flat and flawless against the cracks of the earth.
People seem to have so much fun at the beach. I read about fun once on the reverse of a cereal box. The men have these bodies that are full of lines and geometric shape, the women polished and tanned. All of them golden where exposed, white where not. The sand flattens after water and is then, with a swish, turned by walking. The whole beach becomes a story of the day (since the last tide) for anyone to read. As a youth I fantasised about taking a girl down to the beach for a picnic, because I thought it would be something we could have reminisced about, but truthfully I do not like beaches. It only would have been awkward—‘Remember that lovely day we spent down C—n beach when you had made prawn and avocado sandwiches? That was lovely.’ ‘Frankly, I couldn’t get comfortable and there was sand in my hair.’ It might have been a good memory for her, but I would have had to deal with the sand in my hair. Sand and salt. I never felt comfortable in that environment. Finding a relaxing position, a recline in the sand, seemed impossible.
There is an advertisement all glossy and sunshine of a group of young people on the beach. Their smiles are kind of electric. Their bodies are kind of electric. I do not recognise their bodies a great deal. The advertisement made me wish I were fonder of beaches. Everything in the advertisement looked so desirable. The men had good, hairless bodies. The women had these bikinis that fitted their bodies perfectly. I wish I were fonder of beaches so that I could spend all of my summers down them. There would be a tan upon my skin; maybe it would be a little drier because of the salt. Because of the beach I would shower in the evenings as opposed to the mornings. Everyone would know where to look for me—‘O, he’s down the beach, haven’t you heard?’ incredulously. I would have my own girl and every guy would have his own girl and every girl would have her own guy and she would have tan-lines and she would taste of salt (all women taste of salt in the summer) and everyone would be so happy to spend all summer down the beach with one another. In the evenings we would have barbecues over makeshift bonfires and do impressions of teachers from secondary school and we would finally return home, our skin stretching with salt. But really I hate beaches so much that the thought of all that is abhorrent.

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