Day at the Beach
The sounds of laughter, shouts and excited yells drew him. From their hotel room, it was a short walk to the ocean, and from there, the boardwalk. He was able to see from his vantagepoint that the span of road had at one time been part of a thoroughfare, now blocked from traffic.
With a glance over his shoulder, knowing his guardian was still sequestered in meetings, he zipped his jacket against the wind and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Though his legs weren’t long, he was there in moments; standing on the fringe, the invisible line that divided the rest of the town from the quarter-mile carnival beckoned as well as repulsed him. It was the smell of a confection vendor that finally made him turn. He’d had his fill of sour sweets, and fun with bitter ends.
From the railing he had been standing at, a set of concrete stairs led away from the street, and down to the beach. The mid-autumn day was too cool for many, and only the occasional body could be spotted dotting the waves; even fewer dotted the sands.
He crossed to the halfway point, eyes watching the surfers fight the ocean to a pick-up point, ride the waves, and even a few as they crashed in spectacular flips of board and flesh. It wasn’t the first beach he’d stood on only watching, but there’d never been enough time to learn. Hawaii was too many years ago; Sydney had been just months, but the reason behind their visit down under kept his curiosity in check.
Though the wind was slight, the air was heavy with salt and tinged with a dead fish smell that lingered on beaches everywhere. Occasionally when the wind shifted, a hint of cotton candy, popcorn or hot dogs waft to him.
Japan he didn’t remember, though he’d been told he was born there, lived there for his first four years. He knew his parents had died there in the unrest from the Korean War years. His guardian had been a fellow soldier, an officer in the Special Forces unit his father served in. Other than an orphanage, there had been no one else.
Guam he remembered for its teeming population, the heat and the jumble of languages. England had been cold, but he knew they’d only been there a few weeks in mid-winter, and stayed at an isolated base to the north. One day he’d have to go back, and see what else it had to offer. There’d been other places; sometimes they stayed longer than a few weeks, sometimes even months. His European tour was dotted in unusual locales; his Asian tour even more so. He knew they’d been in Russia, though it was never spoke of. There’d been business there, and he never left the consulate.
Two more years and he’d be able to make his own decisions -where to go, what to do, how to live. His guardian spoke of the war heating up in one of the Asian countries they’d spent over a year in. A place he remembered for its people, their music and the constant threat of death. He was offered college; he knew he would join the Army.
He turned at the yell behind him. A disc flew straight for his head, and he snatched it from the air without thought. A young man was running toward him, waving an arm in the air. And he flipped it back. The man’s companion demanded an accounting for being so weak. With a laugh and a shout of "thanks", the man ran back to rejoin his friend.
Shoving his hands in his jacket pocket, he began to walk along the shoreline, just out of reach of the waves. One day, when plans, schemes and operations weren’t being discussed, he’d like to come back to this place. He stopped and looked back over his shoulder to watch the two men tossing the Frisbee at one another. Maybe he’d have time then, to learn to surf, to play a game, to cross invisible lines.