THE SEA IN FOUR ACTS
MARCH 1, 2023
Somewhere on the Mediterranean coast, there is a place below the pines. It shines in blues and greens, and the brightness of the sandstone cliffs is almost blinding. The curious visitor needs patience on the walk there, but I promise them, it's worth it. Here is that place, in four acts.
It's a Sunday morning in August. I'm sitting on a train headed East, to the sea. The train is full of people of all sizes and backgrounds, laughter and witty points in quick French blow past my head. It doesn't distract me from missing someone. Someone I can't talk to right now. In my misery, I decided to go the sea. I picked a spot on the map, and didn't care much where. The width and the colors were going to help anyway. Right now, I doubt that.
When I exit the train, I find myself in a small train station that couldn't look more Mediterranean. Pines spend shadow from the scorching summer sun, and the earth on the vineyards close by is burnt. Cacti and agaves leak out of close-by gardens, and I hear the buzzing of summer air. I start walking. It's an hour's walk until I'll see the sea, through the backcountry. I encounter abandoned gardens, more burnt vineyards, simple stone walls, and signs pointing into the wrong direction. After an hour, I can see a different shade of blue on the horizon. I'm home.
I pass through a little village, and I find a resting place on a big boulder next to the sea. I sit and think for a while, and I know she's somewhere on the other side of that sea. My head loosens up, and from there, I enjoy. It's a long walk along sandstone cliffs, and it's a hot day. My drinking water gets warmer and warmer, so when I finally arrive at a little beach, the sea is pure bliss. I lie in the sun a bit, and almost miss my train. On the way back, the train rattles past salt marshes and flamingos. A smile creeps on my face. It worked.
It's the next weekend. I'm keen to return to the sea, but this time I've brought friends. The vibe is different, and we're the ones laughing and exchanging quips. The walk to the sea flies by. It smells like sunscreen. People have weird hats to protect themselves against the sun. My friend Ben, who boasted about the ocean near his parents' place, is surprised to find that this sea actually has more than 18°C and no kelp forests. We return home feeling light. The same evening, I get a text from the person I miss.
It's one month later. I've brought her to the place. We've made sandwiches and we brought books and games, but nothing really matters. I get to show her this place I'm so fond of, get to smile at her cursing out the little incline we have to walk, get to hold her hand while walking along the sandstone cliffs. She's made for water, and I'm not, but she's gracious enough to only tease me a little for it. We know we're in love, but nobody has said it still. And as we walk back in the sunset, the pain from a good month ago flies out of the window. Life came back around.
It's the end of winter. After half a year of dating and a cold, grey, and rainy few months, the spring sun makes its first appearance. It takes very little conversation to decide to go back. The excitement and uncertainty of the last visit have gone, and have given way to a new feeling: excitement about trust, and wholesome every day lives. The walk and the views seem familiar and friendly, and the the greens and blues are as intense as ever. When we arrive, we fall asleep on the empty beach. On the train back, the flamingos have gone to sleep and the moon rises over the saltmarshes. We smile a bit. This is our place now, and it has treated us well wherever we were.