You lie to the beach and it defeats all expectations. The skin serrates on the small of your back and sun block melts into your eyelids. The muscles of your iris are straining to focus on clumsy novel stretched out before you.The hotel towels is a little sandpaper square. You left your own, over the bath, as custom dictates, and it was left there by housekeeping alongside the soap wrapper. The soap hadn’t been replaced. This means you’re checking every second second that it’s not being caked with wet sand.
Your glass bottle of Diet Coke is flat and warm. The cooling breeze betrays you and peppers the luke-warm bottle with sand.The lapping tide is an irregular rhythm.
In hindsight, the walk your companions are taking would have been a welcome excursion: a diversion from the musty, itchy backrest and the rash of sweat swathing your underarms. It might be an adventure: a maze of inflatables and syrupy ice creams that ‘you don’t get back home’. Instead, you are alone. You’re watching the stuff.
A thought occurs that maybe a getaway isn’t exactly what you needed. Why pick guaranteed sun sun over the unpredictability of the London weather? Maybe it’s a good thing you can go shopping for shorts, and a mac, and gloves ,and books to enjoy as you endure the underground? And all at one time. Maybe ‘rest’ isn’t place you should need to go to every 4 months.
You gaze before you: the sea looks awesome but so unnatural. As if a painter squeezed out the deepest and palest blues in his retinue of colours and squished it between two panes of glass.
Enough. You stand in the black parameter of the parasol and prepare to glide across the boundary onto the unprotected sand; the sand whose grooves, laid on like icing, is being turfed up by the shrill children who have take to the beach like just-hatched turtles.
You don’t glide: you instantly retreat. The sore spot on the ball of your foot pounds with the burn. After reaching for your flip flops you flit between a trudge and a hop as quickly as the terrain will allow. The uneven mounds cause sand to slip between your toes and the speed means the flip flops are askew.
Finally, sweat dripping everywhere, the tide rushes over your feet. They instantly are encased with the wet, bound bed of sand. You stay still as your burnt feet gasp and hiss like a sparkler in a bucket of water. Relief washes over you and then retreats. You remove the flip flops and admonish yourself as they instantly bow to the power of the ocean.
Goosebumps ripen all over your body and you begin to wade further in; an eager mind against the water’s resistance. The water lashes around your ankles and then you’re shins. And then your waist.
You turn back every so often. Under the glass the beach and its participants are the flecks on the painter’s apron. Your lounger is still there. To the left of the inexplicably attractive man in silver shorts and just south of the fractious family. The beachside bar is just three loungers down and seven to the left; it looks small and uninhabitable.
As you drift further in you begin being less precious about the salt drying your lips and irritating your face. Feet sinking into ocean floor, you realise that now, against the sun, you are cold. There’s some trepidation but it’s quickly extinguished. You submerge fully. That ghastly shock turns to pleasure like an epipen to the heart. You emerge and thrash around and float and propel yourself backwards.
Every so often your eyes dart around back to shore. There’s incremental panic as you turn and fail to locate the restaurant. It’s moved further away and to the left. There is no man is silver shorts, there’re hundreds. And off-white, stone grey, charcoal, cobalt and zinc. There’s no perceptible difference between a family, no ties or towels can be discerned.
Each turn backwards it takes you a little longer to locate the invisible pole you were tied to. And every time it becomes a little less worrying. You drift diagonally and the shapes are no longer flecks but constellations.
You appreciate the big red balloon, the diamond formation, the speckled egg and fabric absorbing dye. The beach is a smear now. You decide to close your eyes and carry on floating.