I stand upon the lovelorn beach looking out to sea. There are no people, no deckchairs, no picnic blankets. There are no buckets and spades or other detritus of childhood joy. No one is digging to China. No one is trying to divert the sea into an afternoon’s escapade of river making. No one sits with their feet buried by cheeky children. Just me and a seagull, flying out to sea. I stand looking out into that great blue yonder. In my pocket I have a sandwich, wrapped in yellowing saran wrap. The lettuce is limp and the egg salad has started to stink of sulphur. It is inedible but I am thinking about chewing on that little taste of hell anyway.
She is a solid kind of bird that seagull, like a goose with seafaring credentials. Some birds are all feather and no substance. They disappear in a small mist of red and pillow-stuffing when some hunter with his gun gun gun shoots them down down down. Dead. She flies alone above the lovelorn beach. It might be Rockaway, it might be Tillamook. Sometimes it is a narrow strip of sand in San Francisco, studded with broken glass, discarded sharps and all kinds of bodily emissions that people have excreted from their flesh and left like a reminder life is dirty and lacks dignity, even on the beach. Especially on the beach.
This beach of mine is deserted. It used to have elegant couples holding hands and walking the promenade, holding kiss me quick hats and rock candy canes with words running through them like an insistent refrain. Demanded fun. Insisted upon relaxation. The air smells like rotting seaweed and salt, with an overtone of elderly cooking oil that has been used to fry fish and donuts, sometimes together I suspect, for at least the last two generations, with barely a mind to ever really change it. Heat kills just about everything, including the will to live. That is ok. Most of my beaches are cold and wintry, even in the height of summer. There is no one left to remind me that I am alone.
I have always felt more alone when surrounded by happy people, all together and close and sharing in their joined mundane triumphs and their losses of various magnitudes, than I feel when the beach is empty and I am the last soul standing looking out over an endless empty sea. Other people remind me of what I don’t have. What I do have is peace. If there is no one there, then no one can hurt me; no one can take advantage of me, take credit for my successes or damn me for my failures. When I am alone, the hell that is the infuriating crowd recedes into the distance, melding with the horizon and disappearing over a far hill, away from the sea and the sand and the rotting stench of yesterday’s cellophane wrapped sandwiches and the scent of the sea that drifts up the hills as you tumble down towards freedom, or at least a gander over to the wild wide blue yonder that forever moves somewhere . . . else.
The sea is wide but I always managed, somehow, to cross over. The seagull circles as if it is being flown remotely by some bigger hand that seeks a way to reach out from the land of the dead to this place of lost loves and sand. Sometimes I am the seagull. Sometimes I am that rotting bread and eggs and limp lettuce leaf wrapped in slick saran wrap.
When I swoop down to try and peck at something I need I seem to find myself with a mouthful of something that tastes like hell. I scavenge off the sterile beach, waiting for some big bomb to turn it all to glass, only to find the only thing I can take with me is the view. No one can fly with moldy saran wrap plastered across their face, even if they do have unexpected wings. No. The only way is to see clearly, and not through some tobacco-tinged smeared lens that encases yesterdays unwanted lunch.
Sometimes I am the sandwich, I fear. I have curled round the edges and am making myself feel sick. The faint smell of hell wafts from me and keeps others at bay. Seagulls dive bomb and try and fly away with me. I am not helpless to resist: even seagulls are wary of tough bread, greasy on the outside, and the faint hint of green decay within.
Either way, there is not much to take away from the lovelorn lonesome beach. I stand at the shoreline waiting for a clipper ship or a paddle boat to miraculously appear on the horizon before me. The hope of its arrival, the possibility and promise in the clouds that might be smoke on the sea-water, the size of the waves that grow and speed up, as if they are trying to talk to me, warn me or comfort me that someone, someone is out THERE and they are on their way towards me any moment now. Any moment now . . . any second . . . ten, nine, eight, seven… . . . who I am fooling? There is nothing out there and no one is coming to the lovelorn beach to rescue my soul from solitude.
So I stand and I sit. I cry and light cigarettes which I don’t smoke and flick onto the lapping waves that bite my feet with their cold wet tongues. The lovelorn beach will always be here. Perhaps it is some kind of jail to keep the disease from spreading, that inhuman desire to need no one and for no one to need me. Perhaps my fervent prayers from the start of my days, to be left alone, to be entirely abandoned if I was not to be loved, to at least not torture me, put me here to brood at the wind and the rain and the wintery waves?
Sometimes I am the seagull. Sometimes I am the sandwich. Sometimes I wonder if one day I might become a wave and so I can leave this beach and travel to see what else is out there in a world of subway stations and City streets, and all the good things that people can teach to a soul whose color has leeched into the endless H20 that breeds nothing but longing and neglect.
Perhaps I need to remember how the people laughed and played. Maybe I can mimic their happiness. Perhaps if I surround myself with summer it might not be winter all the time after all. I doubt it. There is no escape from the lovelorn beach.