My feet hurt as I try to negotiate the sharp stones that pave the bottom, but I pretend not to notice, like I do this all the time. I used to, so it should still count.
I can hear mum shouting something in my direction, through the high-pitched din of the beach at midday. I turn and see her sitting under her parasol, forcefully waving me towards the left. ‘NO-STONES!!’ She waves. Didn’t fool anyone then.
I take her advice (reluctantly. I hate it when she’s right.) and my feet finally sink into the comfort of the sand, and I can resume my walking outward. In Trentova, after a short few metres where the water reaches up to your waist, it lowers again, and then you can walk as if in a lagoon, for a long time.
The water is heart-stoppingly beautiful today. Crystal clear, in early July. It’s like the sea is still blissfully unaware of the throngs making their way to it, to simultaneously worship and spoil it.
On my left the lusher, greener arm of the promontory reaches around, with chunks of stone either peeking through the vegetation or boldly jutting out. On my right, the familiar rock I used to climb as a child (more terrified arm-waving from mum emerges from my past).
In the middle, rows and rows of parasols, chairs, towels- gaudy and inelegant against the raw natural beauty that surrounds them. The din is still audible from where I am now, but it’s growing fainter. I can hear the bass from the beach bar stereo. Children, screaming excited. A couple of people calling out for each other. The rhythmic, metallic tone of a volleyball as it gets hit.
I turn back towards the line of the horizon – of a faint darker blue – and start walking again, this time focusing solely on the water. The surface today has a crispy texture, although the water is calm and flat. I try to touch it, I want to run my fingers on the ridges, but everytime I place my hand on it the texture is gone. So I take a breath and sink into it.
I want to feel part of this moment and become one with it, because I know I will be gone again soon. I sink and I remember as I’m up again. The time my uncle Peppe pushed my head underwater, per aiutarti!, to help me learn to dive. I remember not being able to breathe, coughing, my eyes stinging. I remember crying- not from the salt water, but from being mortified. Thinking I couldn’t do this thing that my uncle and braver, browner, better-diver cousins could. The three of them standing still in the water, looking bewildered, why was I upset, then laughing. È solo così che s’impara, that’s the only way to learn. I did learn, but I’m not convinced that ever helped.
I dive in again.
I fight to stay in and as low as I can, until my ears start ringing. I come up and breathe hard. I remember being on this beach pretty much every day of the summer during high school. Only in the afternoons: morning time we considered exclusively for families and assorted boring patrons. I remember the boys I fancied who didn’t fancy me, and the boys who fancied me who I didn’t fancy. And the ones where we fancied at the same time, those too, but for some reason they aren’t as memorable. I wonder briefly about them. They’re probably on this beach somewhere, or on another. I am on this beach, with another.
I sink again, and I remember the many times I hated this beach, the whole town really, the persistent feeling of wanting, needing to be somewhere else. I don’t want to think about that, so I decide to come out.
As I head back towards the shore I feel at rest finally. This feeling doesn’t come over me often, so I recognize it when it does- I am content. Now that I have successfully managed to escape this place, I have also made peace with it. Now that I am certain it’s no longer my only horizon, I can go back to enjoying it again.
Mum is waving at me to give me directions. She doesn’t know she doesn’t need to, I know where I am. I can make out the lyrics from the beach bar stereo.