The Beach - Adam Edwards
I followed down the concrete stairs, towards an incoming tide, tapping my crutches on every step. I listened carefully to the faint sound of the foam of the tide, and thought of the hotels that lined the road I had just come off, all separate from each other yet the same in their type of management and appearance and welcoming all the same tourists that would come to visit every summer. I wasn’t a fan of the tourists; the only ones who liked them were the hotels. But I seldom went outside anyway, so I never saw them.
I spent my time inside, reading the books (when I can) scattered about the house. Sometimes they’re half-read, the page dog-eared. Visitors neither picked them up nor expressed much interest in them. Though I still waited for the book’s reader to resume reading; especially the interesting ones . . .
Thorny branches stretched across and I tried crouching underneath them, one leg outstretched like a wooden beam. A thorn caught my coat sleeve and I nearly fell over, my leg nearly hit the metal railing. I unhooked my coat sleeve and remained wary of the thorns’ potential.
I reached the bottom of the stairs and hobbled for the tide.
I encountered a trench that prevented an easy way through with my crutches, so I got down on my behind and dragged myself through, like a dog, and got to the other side out of breath. My foot throbbed as I looked out at an endless ocean, one which occupied my entire view. And then I heard the thump of a ball at my feet. A girl skipped up to me and picked up her yellow ball. ‘Hi,’ she said. ‘How are you?’ she said.
‘I’m good,’ said I. ‘I wanted to come look at the sea.’
She glanced at that endless expanse which I had not seen since—
‘It’s pretty,’ she said, ‘I like it,’ she threw the ball up and it fell back into her hand. ‘Do you want to?’ she asked, holding it out. She smelled sweet, it radiated off her being.
‘I’ll try,’ I said. I could only give an underhand throw, and the ball didn’t go very far but it did roll towards the tide before falling into a small hole, like a golf ball. I felt disappointed it didn’t go as far as I wanted it to. The girl retrieved it and said, ‘I’m going to try,’ and threw it with an overhead throw and it zoomed through the sky. It landed somewhere I couldn’t see, and she went off and I couldn’t help but feel an attraction to the way she went off so lightly. I thought she wasn’t going to come back. She appeared over a low sand dune and waved and I thought she said, ‘Goodbye!’ but I wasn’t not sure. She was far away and I couldn’t hear well, but I appreciated her throwing the ball. She threw it very far. I admired her, envied her. I missed her. I wanted her to offer the ball to me again so I could have another throw, this time maybe an overhead—if she could help me, I could maybe do it. But I looked over to where she had waved and she was gone.
I looked up at the concrete stairs and saw looming over the hotels the grey sky that came so often and so often carried with it rain. But I couldn’t tell when it would reach me because I was at the beach. The sky directly above me, though, was blue with clouds, the sun shining its translucent rays. Still my heart raced a little.
The tide came and retreated with grace, its foam dissolved and saturated the sand, so indifferent to people, to the seasons, to everything. It didn’t elbow forth and force rocks and stones from their positions; the rocks and stones accepted the tide, and allowed themselves to be pulled into the ocean a little, and then a little more when the tide returned to them, as if it had forgotten them by mistake. I had been warned that the beach—the sea really—was too dangerous for me to go out on my own: ‘It’s not suited for you,’ I was told.. ‘You’re better off here—with me.’
‘Why?’ I always asked.
‘Because it’s dangerous,’ was the reply always. And I would always feel a bit silly, a bit stupid—but I wouldn’t use that word because it was a bad word. My carer didn’t like it either. No one was ‘stupid’. Only ‘silly’. Silly is a good word, I was told, because everyone can be silly. It’s good to be silly. I was a silly little man, for example; when I had to go get crutches, it was because I had been so and I laughed when I said that, my carer said recently. The doctor . . . I can’t remember his name. What was his name? We never did see the doctor for very long. I couldn’t even remember when we had last seen them.
I walked along the beach and found someone making a hole like the one the girl’s yellow ball had fallen into, golf ball-sized, maybe a little smaller, along the beach. He was on his knees, using a little spade, and was being very careful about the hole. I think he wanted it to be perfect, like the other ones.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked.
‘I’m digging,’ he said, not looking up. ‘Leave me alone.’
And I did and moved along the beach, along his line of holes that had likely once stretched across the entire beach. I wished I could have seen them all together. Some of the holes were filled with saltwater already, and others were in the process of being filled. Which made sense that he had moved farther up the beach. I wondered why he didn’t start far up the beach instead, but I thought that he must want to be as close to the tide as possible—as I did. But the tide’s retreat . . . I thought my temptation would lead me to be pulled into the waters and . . . I didn’t know what would happen. I was ashamed of myself as I watched foam dissolve at the waters’ fringe. I began to lower ever so slowly under this shame, my shoulders rising high above my head, and I imagined myself collapsing on the rocky ground; but I returned to consciousness, and stood straight, as I had been taught long ago.
The other half of the beach consisted of pale stones, indeed the colour of the ocean’s foam that floated on the surface. I thought of the potential tourists who would’ve swam in the ocean with each other, or sat on the sand bathing. I think that’s what it’s called: bathing. I thought about these tourists. They must enjoy themselves. It must be nice. I don’t know. I can’t say how it feels; I’ve never done it, not that I can remember. I hoped I could try and do what the tourists did every summer, but I didn’t then because I didn’t have time. Dinner would be ready later on.
I watched a woman walk along the stone half of the beach and some of the stones rolled down as she did and struggled to maintain her balance, her arms struggling to stay horizontal; they weren’t even horizontal. I didn’t walk on the stone half of the beach because I would slip and fall over with my crutches; my crutches wouldn’t balance on the round stones. So I remained on the sandy half of the beach where it was safer. But this wasn’t safer than staying inside, as I had been reminded before. I was told that every time I thought about going outside, when the sun was out. But the sun seldom came out, it never penetrated the curtains.
The woman roamed over the stones and I couldn’t see her face. I wished I could see her face, to see if she belonged here. If I would recognise her. I didn’t think she belonged here, she didn’t know how to roam over the rocks. She should go back now, I thought. And I thought she was doing so; she was off somewhere at least.
That girl, the sweet one, reappeared, this time with a short tower of biscuits in her hand. She offered me one and I took a bite of it and the flavour . . . It’s lovely. I was going to ask her something—something—but she was already off, skipping over the rocks without even looking down. She smelled sweet—tropical. That’s it. The crumbs of the biscuit fell out of my mouth then a bird flew down from the sky and stole the rest of my biscuit, squawking. It landed on the wall behind me and ate it while I had my eyes closed. I couldn’t open them; I was listening to the rattling of the stones as they rolled towards the tide.
The stones were getting dotted with dark grey spots and no one seemed to take notice. I watched the dark grey dots appear all over the stones and I looked up at the—grey sky. It was beginning to rain. I felt silly and turned around and followed a wavy line of small holes in the sand. The tide came and contracted lightly, exposing wet sand that it then hid again but exposed it again, this time letting some of the wet sand remain visible. It was retreating slowly. I moved forward but only a bit; I couldn’t move very far. I didn’t know what I would do with my crutches, if anything, what I would do with myself. The tourists would swim together. I would drown. I would be useless. And I had use, I was useful. And I was tired.
I walked along the beach and found someone familiar making holes like the ones I had been following, and they were very round and deep.
‘What are you doing?’ said I.
But I was not a boy anymore . . . I had not been a boy for the longest time . . .
He said, not looking up, ‘—digging. Leave me alone,’ he said.
I did as he said as he began another hole in the sand; more to come.
My crutches made their own little dips into the sand as I tried to find my way off the beach.
I found a trench that was low and I had to get down and drag myself through it. And when I got up, some of the sand was stuck to my behind but I couldn’t wipe it off because I couldn’t reach it. The sand felt uncomfortable in my hand. I think some of it had entered my shoe.
I found the bottom of concrete stairs which led up through thorny branches . . .
I followed up the concrete stairs, away from a retreating tide, tapping my crutches on every step.
Adam Edwards was born in Wales and is currently finishing his first novel. He is to embark on a BSc in English Literature, September 2021.