Day at the beach
mystica, 2003

'Ok, I'll find someone else to help me.'…

While saying these words to my cousin, who didn't deserve them, I realised I had to get out. I was pushing away all the people who
really cared, and it had to stop. So, I finished my phone call, apologizing to him (he forgave me, the dear), put on my mountain shoes,
took my coat, got in my car and headed for the sea. I had to get rid of this depression…

While driving, I felt… nothing, no excitement, no pain, no happiness, no nothing. I was numb, just driving. Not even the reason why I was
going to the sea came to mind… Once, only once, during the 45 minute drive, did I regain touch with myself, when it started to rain. I
remember thinking 'sure, rain, that's just what I need'. The water fell down, ever so lightly, reminding me why I was doing this…
And then, it stopped.

As I came closer to the sea town, traffic grew bigger. Looked like everyone from Belgium had had the idea of coming here today…
I started to search for a parking spot and without thinking I made my way to the beach. Like from a distance, I was aware of the horde of
people, buzzing around me, looking at me while passing, and I started to regain my feeling. But this was not the feeling I wanted. The
feeling of being an outsider, the stress of me being alone, the mean look of hidden laughter in those strangers eyes as they watched my
imperfect body…
I tried not to notice, not to pay attention, but it was impossible not to. They were everywhere. Like bees they swarmed around me,
closing me in, suffocating me and all I could think was 'I have to get out of here'.

When I finally reached the beach, it wasn't any better. Dozens of shops and restaurants, one next to the other, hundreds (it felt like
thousands) of people moving like ants, in and out, one stream of living maggots,…
I tried to blend in, walked the dike, took a look at some of the shops, even sat down on a terras. It didn't feel right. So, without
ordering anything, I stood up and got going again.

The sun played a cruel game with me, as she shined through the dark clouds. My eyes hurt and I went to buy sunglasses. I still felt
nothing. No pain, no hurt, no joy, no anger, no nothing. All I could keep thinking, in a neutral way, was
'I had to get out of here'.

So, as if I was in automated drive, I made my way down the beach, leaving the shops, the restaurants, the maggots behind me. I remember
at one point, my longing came back… I looked up at the sun, wishing for a strong, cold, hard wind.
She must have heard me…

The wind came, and while I was walking down the beach, I felt the numbness making place. It wasn't replaced with pain or joy, there was
no uforia, no hurt. I didn't feel alone or abandoned. With each step I took, walking down against the wind, I felt it taking my emptiness.

As I walked, away from the people and the crowd, towards the opposite direction of where they all went, a peace came over me. I didn't think
of all the things I had planned on thinking about, I didn't wonder what to do with my life, I didn't stop to sort out my options. All I
did was walking. I looked at the sea, the beach, a young couple that crossed my path. Seagulls flying low over the water, trying to avoid
the hard wind. I didn't feel alone or sad, I didn't feel happy. I felt content, just being there.

Moving further, I lost my desperation. I stopped caring how I looked, how people would see me, what they might think of me. I stopped caring
how pathetic it may look walking the beach all alone. Somehow, without any excitement, I just knew this was right. I had to be there. Not for
 overwhelming joy, not for breathtaking pleasure, not for startling happiness. Just for feeling complete.

Suddenly, a force made me look down at my feet. There, in the sand, was the mark of love. The absolute proof, there were people out there
who love and are loved. Not too long ago, a couple must have been to this spot. And left their trace, for me to see.
'Will you marry me' was written in the wet, hard sand. The joy and happiness of the writer's partner screamed up from the 'YES' underneath.
I looked at it, and for a moment I felt the loneliness poking it's ugly head up again. But Nature was watching over me, the wind grew
stronger, chasing away that nasty feeling, leaving nothing but a feeling of joy for those two people who had found each other. No
thoughts of jealousy, no pain of knowing it wasn't me, no regret. I was simply happy for them. Nothing more.

Moving on, I left the mark for others to see. Unlike I would usually do, I didn't think of it anymore. I just saw, enjoyed the knowledge
love is still out there, and put it behind me. For the first time, I didn't drag it with me. The wind wouldn't allow me. Walking further,
I looked around. A dog chasing his master, a father playing with his son, an older couple walking hand in hand. All these people, with
their own lives, their own fears, their own stories,… Away from the crowd they didn't look like maggots anymore. Each person represented
a history on his own, each individual a promise. Flanked by the vastness of the open sea, they all looked, as they are, unique.

I looked at a teenager, playing with his kite and stopped to watch for a moment. The wind made the blood red kite go up and down, taking it
and then pushing it down again. The boy, leaning back against the wind, stearing the kite. Like the man playing with his dog, this young
man was playing with the wind. Both were enjoying it. Grateful for the show, I stood there and watched. Allowing myself not to think of
anything, just watching this magical play between a boy and the wind…

Then I turned, leaving them to their play, and started walking again. The seashells were not so crushed on this part of the beach. Not too
many feet have stamped the ground here, leaving them intact. I bent down, and took up one that was unharmed. It is a little thing, in
different colours of blue. Like my mood was when I started this journey. A few steps further, I saw another and picked it up. Then, I
saw a full black one… I cleaned them up with my hands, not minding the sand getting between my nails, and put them in my pocket.

As I reached the end of the beach, I made my way towards the water, wondering why I didn't smell the salt. Thinking that my nose must be
blocked, I blew it… Nothing. No salty smell. A feeling of sadness came over me for this loss, and I started to move back. My feet
pushing in the wet sand, leaving their mark, that was instantly removed as the sand, flexible by wetness, rose again. Looking behind
me, it was as if I had never walked there. The wind was in my back now, pushing me gently further.

I stopped to watch over the water of that secret world in front of me. Wondering where all those people on those ships were going. The sun
was fighting with the dark clouds above, piercing her beams through the thick blanket of blackness. Stubborn in her way, she let us know,
she was still out there, watching over us. In the distance, the sky was, like my seashell, painted in different colours of blue. From a
very light to a deep blue shade, winking at the sailboats, that were carried by the wind. I looked at the horizon…

The sky was open and clear there, an invitation that life might be good there. I wonder, could it be? Could it be life was good there?
I feel I'm getting out of balance, and look down at my feet. The wet sand, moving under my weight, tells me to get going, as it doesn't
want to support me no more.

Moving along, I am struck by the contrast of two worlds. Looking right, I saw the vastness of the sea. One open space, seemingly at
peace, carrying the few ships to destinies unknown. The waves, some stronger than others, gently caressing the shore. On the left, one
string of what looked like birdcages. One next to the other, all the same style. Like the boxes they use to put little animals in on a
market place. From time to time, there is a crack in the unending string, showing a glimpse of horizon. Cranes, high and fierce, ready to
fill the last bit of open space between the concrete cages, are silent on this day of rest.
I move my eyes from the open freedom of the sea to the caging prisons of mankind. This reality struck me. How odd we, humans, live. Crying
for freedom, we willingly let ourself be imprisonned. Longing for space, we crawl together like ants on an ant-hill.

The cry of a seagull caught my attention. I stop and turn to see where he's going. Fighting against the wind, he flies back and forth, in
search of his mate. Patiently, she awaits him on the pier. His fight is rewarded, and I watch them take off together. I wonder, will I ever
reach my pier?

I start moving again, looking at the horizon, towards a future unknown and uncertain. I reach the point where I have to turn and start my way
back to the maggots and the cages. The wind, a second ago my ally, now grows heavy. Pushing me back, holding me back, as if it wanted to stop me.
I stop and turn towards the water. The wind seems to agree, and stops it's attack.

After standing there for a while, I realize I have to turn and go. Wishing that I could go the other way, knowing it's not possible, I
start my way up the beach, towards the dike. The wind, angry again, pushes and pulls, but I keep going. The sand, turning from wet in dry,
making my path even harder to walk, is not helping either. The entire force of Nature tells me to go the other way. I want to, I can't.

My heart grows heavily as I enter the lion pit again. People, who's look was gentle and friendly on the beach, now have the same nasty
gleam in their eyes as before. I start to feel small again, the pain comes back of knowing I am alone. I stop at a coffeeshop, confused.
Should I sit on the terras and have a drink? The people watch me, I can see how they think of me. It hurts again. I move on. Turn around
at the beach, take one more look at the sea and feel the wind. Then, I remember the feeling of contentment, how it made me lose all this
nonsense. I take a deep breath and head back to my car. Taking the gift of Nature with me.

No overwhelming joy, no startling happiness, just contentment. Hoping it may last a while…


P.S. I wrote this without consideration to literary
accuracy, without any intent of making poetry or   
novel. This is a testimony of one experience, as
it happened and as I felt it.