How I got there, I’ll never be able to remember. All I recall is waking up with the waves lapping at my feet and the sunrise peeking its way over the horizon The gap between edge of the sand and the rising sun seemed like it rang of infinity. As I got my bearings, I turned and looked in both directions up and down the patch of sand and there was not another soul to be found. As I set my gaze out upon the sea, there were no fishing boats, no cargo ships or no people splashing away on jet skis. It seemed my only companions were endless flocks of sea gulls dancing and squawking on the breeze, their wing motionless as they drifted on the currents looking for scraps and carcasses of dead fish that might have washed ashore. There was also what seemed like hordes of transparent crabs that ducked and darted into the sand with the each passing of the waves, remerging only when the waters had ebbed and in search of anything that they had left behind in their wake.
Not knowing where I was, I felt I needed a direction in which to head. There were no landmarks on which to focus, just miles and miles of empty beach and the mist of the ocean as it sprayed and twisted its way back and forth. On a whim, I turned to the right and started making my way down the shore. My bare feet left footprints that were soon washed away by the incoming tide, leaving no indication of my ever have been there. In retrospect, I don’t think it would have mattered if I turned in either direction, the journey would have ended in the same place.
As I made my way, there were piles and piles of driftwood, sculpted and molded like some huge serpent by the winds of time and the power of the sea. Clumps of seaweed and sea shells, some bleached white by the sun and some bearing colors I can’t begin to describe, lay strewn across the coastline waiting to be carried back to the depths by an errant wave. Clouds, puffy and white, dotted the sky and cast shadows down in front of me. As they drifted by, they left their mirages imprinted on my mind.
I walked for what seemed like miles and the landscape hadn’t and wouldn’t change. The sun never rose any higher than it had since I had first awakened and the temperature had remained constant. Any signs of human life on the horizon were non existent. Every now and then, I’d stop and sit, not because I was tired but more because of the sense of awe that had overcome me. It must have been hours before my weariness got the better of me and I drifted off into a deep, deep, sleep.
Well I see a face coming through the haze
And I remembered him from those crazy days.
I think I was probably about fourteen when I first met George. He was three years older than me which, in teenage years, might as well constitute a lifetime. I’d always watch him from afar, the way he carried himself with a self assured strut, a cigarette dangling from his lips. The guy was what the military might have called a “natural born leader”. He was a trendsetter and marched through life to his own beat. The clothes that he wore soon became the uniform of the day for those he allowed into his circle. The music that he listened to, no matter how much out of step and tune with the times, became somehow “cool”. Yes, George oozed charisma like he was sitting in one of those saunas. It just dripped out of his every pore like it was meant to. George was the guy who always had the best girls, the fastest cars and the coldest beers. He came from one of the best and most respected families in town and seemed destined to live a charmed life no matter how he chose to live it.
I’ll spare you the gory details but it’s enough to know for now that George decided to off himself about a year later. I think I only got to speak to him maybe once or twice in passing. Once was outside a candy store when I asked him “What’s up?” and the other was when I passed him on the street and said something like “How you doin?” He didn’t answer me either time.
George didn’t leave a note explaining his reasons. Maybe he wanted to carry the same mystique that he walked through life with to the grave with him. The funeral was a huge outpouring of grief and emotion. I watched from a distance as the prayers were said and he was lowered into the ground.
”A beach is a place where a man can feel
He’s the only soul in the world that’s real”
My eyes had snapped open. The beach that had been so empty save for the gulls and the crabs, was now starting to come to life. Kids with rubber tubes and pails to make sand castles were running towards the incoming waves. All the while, their mothers were telling them to be careful and lathering them with gobs of sun screen. The sun was higher in the sky now and the temperature had started to rise. Blankets, coolers and umbrella’s were placed down and put up, creating specks of images in both directions up and down the beach. The steady stream of customers had begun.
A little boy of about eight running like he had a demon deep inside of him or if he thought the ocean would soon evaporate, tripped and stumbled over me as I was surveying the quickly changing scenery. He picked himself up but before he made his way to the ocean he turned and said to me:
I’ll never know how that kid knew my name and I don’t know if I ever want to.
(Lyrics lifted from the song Bell Boy from The Who’s epic album Quadrophenia.)