I find myself in a different village, on a different beach overlooking a different sea. Everyone still knows each other though – it’s a tiny island where naturally friendly people interact daily. The name of my new proprietor is Neptune. His eyes are bluer than the sea in which the Roman god lives. I immediately notice his accent is different than the others, longer and crisper. “Have you spent time in the UK?”, I ask. He nods. I ask him why he left. “Because the sea isn’t meant to be gray”, he says. He lives alone and drives a silver Beemer. His favorite pastime is gambling with his friends on the beach or sitting on a bench in the middle of town, greeting people he knows. He knows everyone.
In reference to the relative danger of the two islands, Neptune says to me: “Isle X, you tape your eyes open. Isle Y, keep ’em closed for however long you want.”
It’s been a long time since I swam in the ocean. Probably in June of 2009, on Spain’s golden coast. Since then my travels have mostly been landlocked – mountains, forests, deserts, plains, that kind of thing. Laying on the beach all day doesn’t appeal to me. I get bored, antsy, and I always get sunburnt – it’s a fact of life I’ve come to accept. Anyway, if my vacation is relaxing, I’m not doing it right. But I’ll admit the sea has a magnetic charm – when you’re driving for a while, come to the crest of a hill, and see that sapphire horizon, even I breathe a little easier – but it’s a romance I’ve unintentionally avoided for two and a half years. Other things are charming in their own ways, too.
My favorite thing to do in the water is nothing. I float there as the masses of swelling water push my body along with it as my legs lazily lag behind, toes dragging in the sand.
Keep ’em closed for however long you want, Neptune says. Not that I’d want to.
Most of the time my back faces the beach. I float there, suspended, watching pelicans pluck the water for unsuspecting fish. The fish think it’s just another day for them, and not the day they’ll be swallowed whole by a giant ugly bird. A pelican swoops in for the dive, gracefully sliding against the water, and reemerges with a fishtail flapping frantically outside of its closed beak. I hope the fish didn’t take the warm sparkling waters of Isle Y for granted. What a shame that would be.
I stay in the water for what feels like hours. When the heavy sun showers begin, the already isolated beach empties completely. Visitors scurry back up the mountain – God forbid they get wet. At a beach. As the last person vanishes into the forest, I’m left alone. The sun hits me through a break in the clouds and sheds light on the water beneath me. Hundreds of tropical fish are circling my legs. Standing deathly still, the naive baby fishies kiss my toes and knees. I decide the sound of the rain violently hitting the ocean’s surface is the most calming thing I’ve ever heard. I wonder what this sounds like to the fish. They seem uninterrupted. It’s a different world down there, after all.
I stand there in the bay, in the ocean, in the rain, staring at the island-scape that life has presented me with. Despite the pouring rain, the sky is clear and bright and you can see a different storm in the distance, so far away you can see where the rain ends and the sun begins. This phenomenon has always amazed me, to be able to see the weather you’re missing hundreds of miles away. To my right, the expansive ocean twinkles in the sunlight. To my left, light blue water sloshes underneath the island’s hidden coves and reefs. I stare at the small mountain masses that rise from the clear water in the distance, like God was playing connect the dots and didn’t finish on purpose. Sneaky bastard (Lyrically assuming God’s intentions reminds me of Vonnegut, of his brilliantly fabricated theology known as Bokononism: “She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is Doing). I float in the water, still at the mercy of the shallow but powerful sea, and taking Neptune’s advice to heart, I truly close my eyes for the first time.
I’m going to the beach more often.