The beach I grew up by was called Martinique Beach. On summer days it was crowded and hot, but the water was still so cold you went numb from the waist down, and the sand burned your toes when you went to get a towel. A haze of heat seemed to hang over the heads of the people who drove an hour from Town to spend a day out there. I didn’t really like them. The beach was better when it was empty, like on days it rained, or in the winter.
The winter was, oddly enough, when I spent the most time there. My family used to go for walks, right up until late December, and then we would start again as early as March some years. Nobody really went then, except for locals. Their footprints would stretch out on the sand, halfway between the waterline and the dunes, on the part that was easiest to walk on. Sometimes they were alone, sometimes they weren’t. My footprints were always accompanied by someone – my dog, my brother, my parents.
The beach in the winter was a weird mixture of colours, clear and stone cold beautiful. There could be a blue sky on lucky days, so the ocean would be a grey-blue instead of slate, hitting the beach in a rhythm I knew like my own heartbeat. The sand wasn’t brown or white, like in other places. It was grey, with smooth stones scattered here and there. My Mom and I used to pick them up and throw them into the water, watching the particularly flat ones skip, once, twice, until they were swallowed by a wave. Tall grass grew at the edge of the dunes, yellow and drooping. The sand it grew in was fragile and built up to look like a mini cliff, and my Dad had to warn me to stay away or it might fall and bury me. There were big rocks at one end of the beach, where my brother and I climbed and tried not fall. I’d never been to the other end, and all I knew was that that was where the piping plovers made their nests in the dunes, so you had to be careful where you stepped.
After I moved into Town, I drove the hour out there once, with my then-girlfriend, and we went for a walk. My Mom wasn’t there to skip rocks with; my Dad wasn’t there to tell me to get away from the grass; my brother wasn’t there to throw a stick for our dog. Needless to say, we didn’t stay for long.