I’m walking on the beach and as I walk hot water gives way to cold and hot again with each step. The waves move forward shattering light into millions of rays across the bottom of the shallow sea. I feel the wave-carved sand under my feet, caressing the skin with each step. Water slithers up the bank. Shadows and creases form in the sand, sculpted into curved lines and mounds that will soon be lost and never seen again. The waves stud the beach with thousands of shells, both open and closed, and with jellyfish drying to decay.
I trudge deeper, the water up to my knees dragging me in. The water still shifts from hot to cold with every step. The sounds of children laughing and splashing fade as the waves crash on. All I hear, beyond the water and the soft thump of some distant rhythmic melody, is my own steps.
The water rolls up, curves and falls over, drowning and then lost, retreats back. A rowboat rests by the lifeguard post, Salvataggio, and I trudge softly between half a dozen dying jellyfish. I move further up to avoid the sharp seaweed and on to the place where land and water meet. The water catches on deeply embedded shells. As it falls back it folds and bends, casting shadows and light in the most incredible patters, like myriads of stars scattered across the bank.
Music grows louder as I approach the next bar and a lady wobbles with the rhythm. I pass an older man, maybe eighty, in shorts walking backwards into the water, his shirt lifted up over his belly. He takes a drag of his cigarette and looks down at his feet. A girl in a pink swimsuit, once wet hair dried by the sun, wears a tutu and does little pirouettes. Another girl in a yellow bikini splatters across, her feet sucked by the sand. She’s building a sandcastle. One of those monuments created to be destroyed. A man wearing a large plastic bag on his back flies six kites, each made of beautiful fabrics and incredible colors, red melting to green and yellow and blue as they fly up higher and higher into the sky, the burning sun beating down on them and us. He holds a pinwheel, and I’m distracted by the shadows cast by the water as it crashes against the sand.
The water turns cold, laps up against my calves and splashes on my knees. Once more it’s warm, not even half a breath later. The elusiveness of the sea.
I pass the carcass of a crab, white and sun-bleached, folded and distorted and broken. I catch up to the man with the kites. His white linen trousers hang lose and he wears a baseball cap backwards. Seagulls soar in the endless blue and fish swim, fighting against the waves that push them outwards, trying to go back into the sea. Their movement is erratic, unsure which sounds come from man and which from nature. A child, completely naked, has built a castle with six or seven towers carved from a cup of coffee, shells topping each turret. His mother helps him, her red floral skirt draped loosely around her hips. She bends down and fills the cup with sand. Bubbles form as the rolling waves crash onto the sand, and pop as the next wave rolls over destroying the first and creating new ones. I gather up a beautiful shell bleached white to take home.