The first day it rained. The second day it rained. The third day the sun came out, slowly and sheepishly, as though embarrassed by her failure to perform earlier in the week. The beach swelled with people, families mostly, and the toys of various sizes and costs without which the vacationers would have had to notice the ocean or, worse, engage in conversation.
My friends and I planted our chairs a few feet above the water line, cognizant of the rising tide and the probable necessity of moving them up the sand at some point in the not distant future. The waves rushed and fell back, shouted and then lapsed into a whisper. Over and over. Back and forth. I could feel myself slowing, like a yo-yo hurled from a curled fist and left to unwind, its movements growing shorter and less violent with each up and down. Breaths growing deeper, muscles relaxing, thoughts quieting.
It lasted about ten minutes.
“I need to walk,” I told my friends as I laced up my tennis shoes. I headed south.
It was late afternoon and I’d spent most of the week listening to lectures on topics like “Cyber-Bullying” and “Trying the High-Profile Murder Case.” I’d seen images and heard words that I wanted to bleach from my memory. I’d been reminded over and over that evil exists and that the defense against its advancing tide is only as strong as the hearts of the men and women holding the line. I think I can be forgiven for feeling less than joyous.
I passed two elaborate sand fortresses under construction, a sailboat faded by salt and sun, a stick-drawn beach volleyball court, and tent after tent shading people of every size and shape and color, immobile and, for the most part, silent. It was as though, exhausted by the process of getting themselves and their children and the coolers and towels and tents to the beach, they had collapsed just a few yards short of the object of their desires.
Farther down the beach, in front of the grand old hotel, the row of blue canvas chairs shielded by blue canvas umbrellas, military in the precision of its line, held more still and silent people. Their faces were hidden by sunglasses as they stared straight ahead, not moving, barely breathing. Even they, with the ease of wealth and the service of other people, exuded the air of, if not despair, at least lethargy. As though nothing, not even this brilliant summer day at the edge of the ocean, was enough.
I had just turned around to head back to my friends when a little boy, no older than three or four, darted from the shadows of one of the tents directly in front of me. I had to stop to avoid hitting him. He was at top speed and never saw me. There was a huge smile on his face and I watched him run as hard as he could toward the water, oblivious to anything else. He knew what he wanted, he knew where he was going, and he was delighted by it all.
Within the span of those few seconds, I felt my spirits lift. I am long past three and I’ve lived far too long to be oblivious, but he reminded me that there is absolutely nothing to prevent me from knowing what I want, knowing where I’m going, and being delighted by it all. I can be the little boy, arms flailing and legs pumping, sprinting toward the wild and endless ocean.
There will still be evil and darkness and injustice, but from my place in the line the world will see a reflection of the sun.