It was a little before 7 when I got to the beach this morning, and the sky was just beginning to light up. On the horizon, there were clumps of purple clouds piled up, and behind them, the burnt glow of the rising sun.
I wasn’t the only one out there.
I could see the silhouettes of about fifteen or twenty people along the shoreline, most with cameras, some with cameras on tripods. I threw my chair in the sand next to the pier and sat down. I was in a black mood. I didn’t know why, but I suspected the people had something to do with it. I had expected to come there and be alone, at one with my thoughts, the ocean, the sun. Instead, my view was fouled by a mob of people who had come – not necessarily to see or experience the sunrise – but to provide evidence of it on some social media site later that day, accompanied (most likely) by some recycled life-coaching advice about how you should embrace beauty, or be a mindful, good person. It’s funny how the wisest sages I’ve ever encountered have been twentysomething bimbos on Instagram.
I sat there stewing.
I’m deleting all my social media accounts, I thought. I cursed myself for having wasted so much time on them over the years.
I’m deleting everything, I told myself. I can’t contribute to that plastic world anymore. It gets more plastic every time I look at it.
I dug my feet in the cool sand, listening to the wood pigeon cooing from the pier and watching the sky slowly change color. It was now a lighter, transparent blue, beams of sunlight bursting through the clouds, throwing crimson light on the waves, glittering in the foamy tidepools. A seagull sailed over the surf, its reflection mirrored in the sands. I could smell the salt and the strong odor of fish in the air and felt a cool breeze lifting the hairs on my arms. But my mood was still black. I couldn’t contemplate with so many people around. There’s nothing worse than being in public – whether it be the beach, the supermarket, the driver’s license bureau, the public transport system – and having to share a small space with a lot of people you want nothing to do with. I often liked individuals. It was large, protean, faceless masses of humanity I couldn’t stand. Listening to their babble, their dumb opinions, looking at the senseless backs of their necks, their hairlines, waistlines, thier unoriginal existences. Like I say, I was in a foul, cantankerous mood.
He came from the north.
A man of about fifty. He came loping along with his tripod, planted it in the sand about 10 feet in front of me, and stood there blocking my view of the sunrise. I waited for a moment for him turn around and notice me, but he never did. He was completely oblivious to everything behind him. Could he really be that self-absorbed? I thought about saying something. Then I had this fantasy about marching over there, wrestling his tripod from him and hurling it in the ocean. I got out of my chair, walked around him without saying anything. I stood on the shoreline directly where his camera was pointed. I squatted down and began talking my own photos.
When I turned around he was gone; my mood elevated after that.
I took my chair to the other side of the pier where it was less crowded; took a sea bath, floated on my back looking up at the sky, went underwater and stayed under for as long as I could hold my breath.
I liked it best underwater.
There were no people under there.