The Coast

The smell of fresh fish, salty humidity, an endless horizon signals my arrival. It has been three months since I`ve seen the ocean, the longest stint of my life. There were lakes in the highlands that reminded me of the sea, just puddles lined with cement houses. This is different. I forgot. I forgot how much I love that smell, how the sand feels between my toes, the sunset drags my eyes into the final collapse of colors. I step off the bus and walk immediatly downhill, towards the beach.

On the malecon–the esplanade–there are open-air fishing vessles dragged up the sand with heaps of spliced nets resting in their hulls. The fisherman toss the silvery bodies of their catch onto the stone pavers. Children, families swim in the gentle surf. I sit with my feet dangling in the tope grains and watch. My duffle is beside me, resting, like I am, waiting for nothing in particular, breathing in the new air.

Eventually, I find a taxi to take me the 20 km north to the Hostal Cocosolo. Like the name implies, the hostal is situated on a hidden stretch of pristine beach where, at high tide, the waves lap gently against the roots of the fruit-laden palm trees. I have time for a swim before sunset. The water is warm, here, barely north of the equator. The sailing breeze that comes in from the ocean brings goosebumps to my skin, so I duck back under the water, let the foam roll over me, basting in the ocean currents.

A cold beer tastes better here than it ever has before. I am by myself, totally alone, sitting on a bench facing the breakers. And I am smiling, even chuckling, as I write in my journal. It is inexplicable. A feeling without obligations, a sense of beauty and freedom that the ocean creates is enough to overwhelm me. The pink haze is suspended like a trap over the rocking fishing boats. My laughter would seem insane to anyone listening, but it is out of my control. The ocean and beach have taken hold of me, turned me into a helpless child, and I embrace it.

The next day is no different. I rise early and walk north along Jeffers` white destruction. I am reminded of the Washington Coast. There are many differences, but more similarities. The pelicans glide along the crests of waves, sapping the energy of the break to propel them towards their next meal. The unbroken melody of the tumbling ocean, the savory, almost rotten smell, the rusty headlands that thrust westward as I walk north are identical. I walk until I don`t feel like walking anymore, some hours from the hostal. My feet are getting raw from the pre-heated sand. I sit on a log and let the waves crash into me.

Of course, the temperature is different than up north. I could swim forever. I wade out into the waves, ducking under some, letting others crash into me. Again, I feel the giddiness of a child. I let the biggest waves get as close as possible then duck my head underneath the crashing foam and stick my legs into the air. The force of the wave slams against my legs and throws me into a series of flips and sumersaults. I rise for a breath not knowing which way I`m facing, try to guess before I open my eyes, laugh when I am wrong. Sometimes, I dive beneath the crash of a wave and hold my breath, grasping the sandy floor until the next wave rolls over me. A rushing sound, darkness and then hollow brown light signal that the breaker has passed. I play for hours.

It is the time of evening when the cicadas start buzzing when I finally return to the hostal. Sunburn, red soled feet, sore shoulders from the satchel strap, a huge invincible smile are my features. The sun sags towards the horizon, a deep humming red. I wonder if there will be a green flash like I have seen from the cabin up north. I watch the descending orb out of the corner of my eye until the last moment, then put my full attention towards it. The flames are extinguished by the waterlogged horizon, but there is no flash of green, only a weakening richness in the rose light that envelopes everyone.

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