After ten minutes of waiting with the phone pointed at the air vent blowing a wind chill of death, the cell returns to life. I set the destination on the GPS, attach the phone holder to the glass, hoping that this time it may last for more than a few minutes and I get back on the road, humming a song by Aqua Hinder.
At the beach, waiting for me are Sergio and Alessandra. The plan is to reach them and spend the afternoon in the sun, bathing in the ocean and relaxing. In short, a shitty life.
I park the car in front of the ocean and I head to the sandy path leading to the beach. To make it even more “Australian”, I take off my flip flops and go barefoot. After three-point-six seconds I regret it: the first step in direct contact with the sand seems to me like what walking over a river of lava would feel like. With the grace of a paralytic I hop all around putting my flip-flops on as quickly as possible, taking care to also throw an eye to see if the scene is being followed by some passer-by or on camera.
I reach the others fearing to meet up with what appears to be two loose stumps instead of feet , but apart from a slight burning sensation, everything seems ok. Just to make sure, I look back to see if I had left parts of my feet on the street, instantly melted by sand hotter than fire and sown at each step for the delight of stray dogs.
At this point I'm ready for the sequence of gestures typical of those who go to the beach: lay your towel down, show your swim costume, put on the sunscreen, jump into the water. Let's look at this sequence, in order to analyze step by step all the gestures and see if there is , by some chance, room for improvement.
Spread the towel.
Spreading a towel on any beach in Western Australia, during a typical day at five hundred degrees with “moderate” wind is equivalent to deploying a wing of five square feet on the top of a mountain. In a split second I find myself holding the towel at the corners, in the typical position: on my knees, with my ass up in the air, arms outstretched in an attempt to lay the towel flat on the sand. I'm on top of the list for the first prize Clumsy this year. The towel inflates by the wind before slamming on the sand and then it comes back, tossing three acres of sand in my face, hair and mouth. After three attempts and the intervention of a rescue helicopter I can finally place it on the ground. Now, however, there is the problem of how to keep it there. With the agility of a dead body in water I place my feet on the two bottom corners and one hand in the centre of the top edge. Meanwhile, with the other hand, I put shoes and flip-flops at the four corners, hoping that the whole thing does not turn into a bundle of four pounds waved in the wind. In the end, I come out unscathed.
Show your budgie smugglers.
I do not know about you, but for me the time between when I am in my shorts and t-shirt and when I find myself in my swimming costume is always an important moment. One moment you're a regular guy, maybe cute, not bad at all really, maybe handsome, definitely cool, with shorts and t-shirt, sunglasses, jaunty hair. In short, a type. A moment later you are a translucent body exposed to the sun, with a complexion equal to the lower side of a killer whale, which definitely wouldn’t mind three months of gym, (however a Navy Seals selection course would make it better). In this regard I am waiting for someone to invent the belly of Dorian Grey, which increases instead of your own, despite various pizzas and mojito’s. After removing my t-shirt without taking off my glasses "to make it faster" I find myself stuck in the collar of my jersey, from which I emerge after several attempts with embarrassment and understanding of what it means to be born. Here I am: thirty four years old, exposed to the world with my glasses askew, vertically, on my face. It is at this point that you can appreciate the contrast between the skin on my face, arms and legs of a beautiful golden colour and the rest of the body of a ghostly white, which gives you the chance to indulge yourself naming your own veins. After removing my t-shirt, also, that nice haircut I am not interested in appearance/style now looks like you do not give a shit about yourself.
Putting on sunscreen.
In Australia, at the beach, at around noon, being in the sun without three inches of sunscreen on, with a complexion that looks like an immaculate canvas, basically means laying on the hot plate of a barbecue. I hurry to put the sunscreen on my body and do my best to cover it all. Not that it is too large to get it all covered, but I have to invent unusual movements to reach all of the points on my back. At this point, I perform a series of maneuvers on the spot, almost dislocating my shoulder, elbow and wrist in an attempt to reach every inch, and when I'm sure that I've made it, I'm going to finally sit on my towel covered with sand.
Jumping into the water.
On a day with fourty degree heat, staying in the sun for more than ten minutes makes you think you want to try and see if being cremated turns out to be much different. The ocean is in front of me, with a thousand shades of blue and light blue, with waves that chase in the wind and a salty smell that hits my face. How can you resist? For a moment, I estimate the “you just put the cream on” thing, but then I start feeling like a caterpillar in a microwave. I get up and take off my glasses. The struggle to have clear eyes in my case is very obvious from the expression that I assume only a second after removing my dark lenses: half-closed eyes Bud Spencer like, contrite face to try and keep the entry of light to a bare minimum, mouth open only to one side in the typical expression of someone who has been confined to a cave for ages. Walking on the sand , pretending to see a damn thing , reminds me instantly of the temperature on the ground . I stabilize and resist stoically for the first five steps, then I speed into a sleek fast pace , increasing the pace to a graceful jog , erupting into a race with arms waving backwards in search of a puddle of water.
Arriving at the shore I shoot from straight strides in to jumps that are typical of those who enter the water running. I leap in to the waves like I am Mitch Buchanan.
Little flash back: a few hours before I was at the grocery store in search of a sunscreen when I realized that I also needed a swimming costume. Finding one for six dollars looked like a damn good bargain to me at that time.
Now, inside the wave: what they do not tell you when they sell you a six-dollar suit is that it could be soluble in water and fade away after a minute. Or, it may have a rubber waistband that is not so strong, which makes the suit inclined to leave at inopportune moments.
I realise this second option while I am flying in to the dip of the century. The impact of the wave is felt, but like a wire my body coiled in the typical position of an expert diver (never done it before). Too bad that the suit did not follow the body to which it was attached. While I'm in the water I realise I am showing my bloody balls to some fish in the area and to avoid showing them to the rest of Perth I try to restore the order of things before emerging. With the sudden agility of an otter, remit the suit to its rightful place and resurface as if nothing had happened.
Back on the beach after a refreshing bath, only to find out that Sergio and Alessandra have decided to go back home. I remain to enjoy the afternoon, repeating the movements of fixing my towel and getting the sunscreen back on.
A good book helps me to spend the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and the hours make way for a beautiful sunset. I point my gaze toward the horizon and I try to catch as many colors as possible, savoring the scent of the ocean and the sound of the waves, the seagulls and the wind.
Then an unrealised discomfort makes its way across my back, between my shoulders, like a slight burning sensation... I banish the thought, remembering the disastrous level of contortion reached to put the sunscreen everywhere on my back and I tell myself that it’s ok, you've covered it all ...
(to be continued)
Writer wannabe, mojito and absinthe lover, one day I want to see the Earth from space. I’m a ESL Teacher.