At the beach my mother decides to try a little new-age parenting. Dressed in bathing suits and old flip-flops, we grab chalk uncovered in a dresser and start drawing on the exterior walls of the house. They are white and smooth – more than adequate for our enthusiastic doodling. It is our grandfather who built this house and hopefully, instead of rolling about his grave while his grandchildren despoil his beach house, he’ll appreciate our creativity (however amateurish the results may be). Anyhow, it feels satisfying to write EMMA WAS HERE next to the window. It stakes our generation’s claim, even if the period will be brief. In a few years the sea will have reached a point where it threatens all the houses closest to it. Before I turn twenty the government will have already arrived with wrecking balls.
When my mother returns she eyes our handiwork and nods appreciatively, though somewhat apprehensively (later she’ll sneak a glance at me and whisper It’ll come off, right? Right?)
There’s a radio somewhere, somehow, along this boardwalk, playing first an instrumental version of Funky Town and then Michael Jackson’s Bad and then an extensive collection of old progressive rock (carry on my wayward soooooooon). There’s a delicious jittery feeling in listening to faraway music while standing on a chair, trying to reach the roof of a house with yellow chalk. You dedicate a part of your body to each burst and bubble of the melody – swish of the wrists for the gurgling sax, a flick of the head for the warbles of the Bee Gee’s, a snap as the push-pull rhythm of the waves becomes part of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Some parts of the day you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it’s summer. The sea develops the human equivalent of a stomach ache, grumbling all through the afternoon. The Red Cross guards hoist up a red flag and frown pointedly at the slate-colored sky. At this point, the two – sky and sea – could almost be interchangeable. Even so, you can sense the…vivacity? tumult? Children stumble about on phosphorescent roller blades, alley cats fight with the dogs of French tourists, laundry slips away from the grasp of the elderly matrons two houses down and balloons into the air. But there is never a sense of awkwardness, never a pause like an elevator silence or when you sing karaoke and mess up the lyrics. It just simply isn’t allowed. There’s isn’t enough time nor patience for accusations or shyness or embarrassment. Fireworks splatter your ears and the stars every night and there’s too much, too much, so much that you can’t help but be swept away by it.