In another life, I went to the beach. Standing in the bright wind of the Texas coast, the quiet one said: It is infinite. I heard him over the roar and understood.
A couple days ago I went to the beach I found when I first moved here. In 1997 the road down the hillside was a bright green tunnel of leaves and moss, the beach a notch beyond a culvert. The state wants payment now and the parking lot is broad and empty. A barbeque smokes with the sweet chemical stink of lighter fluid. All the backyards over all the years with that smell. There are no memories to retrieve, the smell is so thick with them. That smell is a constant out of time.
1997 was wonders and stresses, that point at the swing’s apex where legs dangle and, if the universe was a little different, you could keep going, floating off the wooden board and gently into the sky. The worry would come later when the world was small and still receding, the universe silent and dark. We all come back to Earth but we also keep going outward, never to return.
I spent the morning on the phone dealing with the unpleasant surprise of identity theft, then checked in with the doctor while I still have “luxury” insurance leftover from work. After that, a drive all the way to Tacoma to look at a car. I realize this beach is on the way home, more or less.
It isn’t a going back the way going back to my old townhouse would have been–I don’t think. Tacoma seems cleaner but like a quiet New England river burg I’ve never visited before: nice bridges, old brick buildings, a sense of human scale. The road passes gigantic freight and log yards, marinas, falling down wooden shacks on the edge of Commencement Bay. The road I took with some regularity is the same and different. I have forgotten the little hamlets up high on the bluff, expensive little towns for retirees. The road swoops through creeks and inlets, all buried under green canopy, and it is like driving through a calendar.
Nothing has changed at the beach, though I realize the memory to assert this is fuzzy. Our apartment was not far from here, a long bike ride. I think of the late Nineties, jobs I had, how things were. It is all so changed, the memories vacant, as if drawn in pencil. But the beach is still here. People still come here even if they have to pay, but they are new people. Everything is new and floating. The tide is coming in, floating us.