We had no idea what we were getting into when we left the condo that afternoon. The clouds were a little skitterish in the sky, yes; but it seemed otherwise warm. Beneath our feet on the deck, two teenagers pedaled by on bicycles, happily screaming undecipherable words at each other.
It was our first real day of vacation, and we weren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves yet. Each time you have to relearn it, rediscover how it was when you were young. Sleep? Check. Eat breakfast? Check. Get dressed, brush teeth? Check and check. Having attended to these basic duties, we were left with the overwhelming task of tasklessness.
A walk alongside the ocean seemed like a sensible idea, a vacation-like idea, relaxing, sunny.
He and I left the condo, and just as we crossed the bridge over the sand dunes and onto the beach is when the wind hit.
“Whoa!” he cried, grey shirt whipping a violent web around his torso. I promptly fell over.
There is something about unusual weather that inspires joy. Maybe it is how landscapes change, seem completely different from what you’d expected. Maybe it is this newness, this feeling of being the explorer, compounded by the temporality of the situation: this world will disappear in an hour or so, and everything will go back to what it was before. You’ve been let in the secret passageway. Someone has melted the looking-glass. Here you were, chosen to witness this strange otherworld! You have to report back to the others, tell the tribe what you’ve seen!
I took my shoes off and they blew away. “Hah!” I cried.
We pressed onward, directly into the wind. The beach was swept flat, sand whipping across its surface in speeding golden currents, burying our feet as we walked, grains pummeling into our ankles and between our teeth. I could feel it driving itself under my fingernails, into the crevices of my clothing. At one point we looked up and saw three men moving sporadically like lame birds across the barren landscape. They had harnessed themselves into enormous, brightly-colored kites and were attempting to steer with their arms, pulling on thick black ropes and elevating unsteadily for a few moments only to come to a crash running-landing. We did not acknowledge one another as we passed, but pressed further into the wind.
Suddenly, it seemed we’d reached a dead-end. How can the beach end? There was endless blue tumult in front and to the left of us, and a few concrete blocks to our right. Behind us was the battle we had waged. We stood there, on the edge of the water, for a few moments, uncertain where to turn.
“Did you get it?” She’d popped out of no where. I immediately fall in love with women who do this, because I become convinced that they are magical, and part of me still believes in fairies.
“Did you get the sand blowing over the beach? On your camera? Is it digital?” She hadn’t tied her hair back in the wind, and it was making an auburn hurricane around her head. That is all I can think of when I try to remember her face.
“Yes! Yes I think so. Let me see, we’ll show you.” He had taken a video of the sand moving, and we couldn’t figure out how to make it play back on the preview screen. She stood there, waiting awkwardly a few moments, and then shrugged and laughed. “It’s okay,” she said, “I just wanted to make sure you got it.” And she ran off.
We decided to make our way back soon after, the wind pushing at our backs, blowing us home. Our heads pounded and our ears rang, our eyes grimy with sand particles. It was like how I imagined the moon to be, it was like how I imagine it now, that I’ve seen it. Barren, endless, beautiful. And as we crossed the wooden bridge over the dunes, the wind abruptly stopped. The parking lot in front of us was still and peaceful. After such a violent atmosphere, walking down those stairs was like stepping into sleep. What a relief.
Early the next morning, I took my iPod and walked by myself, all the way back to where the beach ended and the girl had appeared. I sat down by the edge of the water and waited for her. But everything looked completely different: calm, smooth, littered with shell fragments, birds, fishermen, everything usual and earthly, and I knew she wouldn’t come.