by Melanie Edge
The long, white, metal rod that seems to have attached itself to my hand these days hit the soft sand and bogged itself with the handle jarring into my rib. I winced while the on lookers looked on, not sure how to react.
“Why would you come to the beach if you can’t see anything?” said a tanned woman with long sun-bleached hair wearing a one-piece swimsuit with a purple sarong wrapped around for modesty. She wasn’t old nor was she young, but she was full of confidence.
I gave her a look that she understood, and she started to defend her position. “I mean there aren’t things here to participate in. People are spread out all over the beach,” she said, not skipping a beat.
“Just because you wouldn’t do anything if you lost your vision doesn’t mean everyone has to live to your low expectations. Life is for living,” I said.
She screwed up her nose like the rest of her face with a who-do-you-think-you-are look.
The audience looked on edge, not sure whether to intervene. More pretended to go back to their activity while still waiting for the fireworks to launch.
“I meant it won’t be safe getting around,” she came back with.
“The world isn’t a safe place, but it does reward action. Life isn’t easy nor is it fair. I view what you call problems as challenges,” I replied calmly.
“There would be better activities more suitable to your condition,” she urged.
“Life is not over because you can’t see, it’s just different. It can be more rewarding using four sharp senses bringing the world to life instead of living with tunnel vision,” I said, digging my toes into the warming sand.
I heard the woman take a deep breath, preparing another useful piece of advice for me.
I enjoy going to the beach, feeling the sand sift through my toes. The gentle breeze can cool you down or the winter wind can whip your skin. I can hear the giggling of kids building creations or discovering new things. The sound of a mangey tennis ball on a wooden bat, a crowd cheering when there’s a catch. The sound of the waves roaring before they crush through me and froth and fizzle on the sand. The smell of the salt water that eventually lines my mouth, forcing me to come to shore for fresh water. It clears my mouth of the taste and I’m ready to head back out. The smell of a barbeque, or even better, fish and chips, with the seagulls squawking to sneak a chip or two. They sound ruthless and not willing to share.
I like surfing and I love hearing the roar of the wave, judging the direction from the ocean, toward me, warning me to get out of its way. I’ve learnt to stand my ground, scrambling to my feet through the rush and confusion. The feel of the board lifting me up from the water pressure under me. I feel on top of the world. A sense of freedom and a belief that I can do anything. I balance the board in turbulent water, navigating its moods. I need to concentrate as I understand it could easily push me off. Dumping me on a hard or sharp surface. Just remember that bodies float, know when to hold your breath and when to let it go. Then it’s time to get back up, leaping onto another wave.
Sitting on the sidelines is not an option for me. The sun burns me while the sand finds every crack, rubbing me raw. It irritates my skin for days. Unleashed dogs come up, bark, and take my food. That’s why I like being out in the water, these creatures understand spatial awareness and won’t cut in on your wave. They respect the rules of the water and go with the flow.
“You should come during the week, when there are less people,” she said trying to solve a problem that didn’t need to be solved.
“I work in the city during the week. I come here to relax and recharge,” I replied.
“It would be easier, is all I’m saying,” she said.
“I’m not sure what the problem is? I’ve been to the beach many times before on my own,” I said.
“You don’t understand you’re upsetting everyone,” she spat out, storming off.
That’s interesting. I’m not the one who threw the stone causing the ripple of awkwardness across the beach.
I shook it off and continued on closer to the shore. I found a great spare patch of sand and took a large black towel with bright coloured dots out of my bright orange bag and placed it on the sand. Once it was unfurled and flat, I sat down taking my sunglasses off. The world became so much brighter, blues, yellows and greens, it’s nice to have some clear definition. I put them in my bag, exchanging them for a firm plastic bottle of sunscreen. I popped the lid off and poured some of the thick liquid, and applied it all over my body to create a shield. I put all items in the bag including the cane.
I got a fright when a “hello” came my way. Do I make a dash for the water to avoid a conversation with a stranger?
No. “Hello,” I said, raking my brain for the voice, was it someone I knew.
“I saw what happened back there,” she said hesitantly. “Wanted to know if you were okay, or need some help?”
“I’m fine” I lied. “I’ve brought everything with me and I’m familiar with the beach and how it all works.”
“I’m here with my family, so if you need anything throughout the day come to the rainbow umbrella. The first one on your left. My name is Kate,” she said.
“Thank you for the offer, Kate. I’ll keep it in mind. Enjoy the rest of your day,” I said.
“I will, and you too,” Kate said and paused before walking to her patch.
Sand stuck to my feet where I hadn’t rubbed the liquid in properly. I didn’t worry about it as water would wash it off. I pulled off my cotton t-shirt and three-quarter length pants, placing them into the bag with the white cane which weighed my towel down so it wouldn’t float away.
I did the hot sand shuffle until I got to the wet sand which was more solid under foot. I could hear them sizzle like a hot pan under cold water. Taking the first step in, I held my breath until I acclimatised. I submerged fully, becoming a sea creature as the seaweed wrapped around me, removing my shield.
Melanie Edge is an emerging writer who explores the world via all sensors which comes through in her descriptions. She has a unique perspective on the world and enjoys a Challenge.