The Three Times

He first stayed at Treyarnon Bay in 1993, the August of his fifteenth birthday. He’d been before, on day trips while camping further inland, but never stayed so close. Just a short walk to the narrow sandy beach and the grass covered headland. It was the right time to escape from the city which had never felt so ugly. Grant Jackson was killed in Endcliffe Park just a few months before. A young life taken by a boy with a knife.

The ocean was cleansing in its vastness. He’d sit on the grassy headland and stare, the perfect line of the horizon dulling his senses and tranquillizing his thoughts. He’d watch the waves rush in at high tide, sucking the water from the rocky inlets like a vacuum, before crashing into the rocks and firing white water cascading into the air with a whoosh and wetting his face with sea spray. He’d body-board when the surf was right, spending hours at a time in the ocean.

His skin tasted of salt.

At night he and the other teenagers would head into the dunes to make fires and drink foul cider. On his birthday he drank a half bottle of whiskey and woke up on the beach, wet, sandy and paralytic. 

He came back for his twenty-sixth, the first time in five years. A break from the depressing monotony of a low wage job.

He’d sit and stare at the ocean again, watching the sun disappear between dragon’s teeth rocks as the sky turned to lava. Night lit up so bright next to the ocean, stars, constellations, satellites moving across the sky with purpose. August Perseids burned in colourful incandescence as they crashed into the atmosphere, the Milky Way a cloudy band of uncountable stars above. Everything is moving, he thought, everything is changing. 

The friendships forged there had more meaning than those found elsewhere. They could last a lifetime. That year he made connections that changed everything. A different way of living showed itself. Conversations and meetings that would shape him. People he’d love, who’d love him.

He’d swim in the ocean on calmer days.

His skin tasted of salt.

This summer I’ll be back, the tenth in a row and the seventh full season, June or July right through to September. Not just a holiday any more but a home, a way of life. I’ll work for myself in the village, outside in the sun or wind or rain.

With old friends I’ll sit around camp-fires. Those I’ve shared everything with. Lived, travelled and loved with.

The ocean will be there as always, tranquillity in one hand, ferocity in the other. It’ll be my playground. I’ll float and dive and explore the hidden world beneath its surface. I’ll feed myself from its pantry of muscles, mackerel and pollock. It will anchor me in my thoughts as I sit and stare, content with my journey through the adventure of life. It’ll hold me in awe with its power and its vastness.

My skin will taste of salt.

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