I was young in LA once. I lived by the beach and lived a lifestyle that was as close to stereotypes as stereotypes go. It was a paradise by any other measure.
There was an easy grace, a rhythm, to my life then. I woke up to the sound of waves crashing the beach, and salted mist coming in through the windows. I loved 10 am, which was when the full heat of the day hadn’t started yet; it was just warmth at first, and the breeze was delightfully mixed with both the coolness that had penetrated the earth during the night, and warm air, just beginning to rise from the asphalt. It felt of the earth.
Gentle breezes blew through the window, making the drapes flit lightly, and the smell of the restaurant below – waffles, omelettes, burgers, and pancakes – was heaven. The smell of barbecues came in every weekend, and neighbours would invite us over for extra burgers or mojitos. We lived without shoes, and walked down to the beach to play volleyball or surf.
The homes along the beach rest on narrow plots of land overlooking the sea, and flashed their popsicle painted colours, periwinkle to lavender, as we rode our bikes by them. We swerved next to skateboarders and frisbees and people walking their dogs. Everyone had mild drawls and burnished skin.
I would lay with her when the moon was mellow and the water was high, and we would wake up to the sound of idle gulls outside and leaves brushing each other, like the sound of our skin.
But at times, all of it – the sand and sun and our young love – filled me with nostalgia for a place that I felt like I would never know. Every day the world was bright. I was young and it should have made me happy with hope, but I had a creeping feeling I was being blinded.
To me, it felt like a land of waiting, a land you reach at the end of a journey, facing the water and its foaming, dark secrets. The sea stretched on forever in one direction. Was there something on the other side?
Surfing, I would paddle out past the line and look back at the homes. From out on the water, they looked narrow and huddled against something. Then at night, the crash of the surf began to sound like it was reiterating something, a hypnotic message.
I felt like a fugitive. A feeling that there was something left undone, like I had left a light on somewhere and fled. I was hoping the sea would help me forget, but it was never silent, and the town itself had a finality about it, like it was the end of the world.
And I felt like if I stayed, I would have grown complacent and old and in my young mind, that was equivalent to death. This was not my place. At least, not yet.