There’s a heap of luggage unceremoniously dumped on the floor: a heterogenous mix of rucksacks, coats, shoes haphazardly placed into order. The clickity clack of a moving wagon indicates that arrival is imminent but not yet achievable. The window pane thrums with a barely concealed impatience for the wild swishing-night of the seaside. It’s an unplanned trip and everyone knows that all unplanned trips have a different sort of underbelly. And if time passes differently, if the group feels that they just rushed in when they rush out again, then that’s just part of it.
Salt. That’s the first thing they feel. Salt and We made it, we did, feeling like the burlesque moon spotlights the only four people in the world. Yes, and in fact they are alone. All alone; on the pier, the rock beach, the stony steps leading all the way down to the ocean. No one else is mad enough to come here, at this hour, at this moment in time.
“Look, a green light!” says Sonja “I am Gatsby on the pier”.
“You’re looking the wrong way” replies John “Look, the way the night-mist cradles the lamplights in the harbour. An impressionist painting. Monet! Manet! Degas!”
“No, look” chimes Eliot “The white waves crashing on the white cliffs: like foam they bubble up from the darkened land”.
“You’re all mad” finished Katie “All I see is the sea and nothing else”.
Rightly so, nothing else and the sea. Sea that sweeps every surface. Sea that permeates every pore, every rock, every plant, every person. Sea that consumes the elastic night: Sea moon-thief, sea day-bringer. Sea!
They scrabble up the cliffs like gremlins, on all fours, sinking into the green foliage like it could hold them through the worst of storms. Yes, anyone else would have turned back by now. The mud is almost a stream: it slips, it curls: a waterfall off the edge. But, thinks Eliot, I have fallen larger and further than these depths. On the summit, in the wind, into the break, break, break of the waves and the sky and the crags they notice the blue, the grey, the melding of the bar and
“Look! A shadow on the white” says John
A ladder! The path is treacherous on their way down. Slipping mud is one thing, sliding stones are another. They could go careening down and join the empty shells on the beach below but, no, they hold each other together, each a mama-cat protecting its young.
“I’m not sure about this…” worries Katie “on any other day but today…”
“But we don’t have another day” replies Sonja “we have to-day and tomorrow it wouldn’t be the same anyway”.
Eliot outstretches a hand “don’t worry, I’ve got you and they’ve got me. Two more bends. Two more. Nothing more. We’ll be touching the beaches. The black beaches. And look! don’t you want to see what they’re made of, what we’re made of?”
When they reach the bottom, they kick their shoes of their feet and sink in, curl in. Texture, what texture!… They continue: hats, shirts, trousers. Yes, running, they’re running. A wave greets them: sinking in, curling in. For a moment, they’re the ocean.
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