I live about four miles from the ocean. Sometimes when the weather is nice, I take my bike out there, to Ocean Beach, which is the end of the world. On certain days, there is nothing more perfect: a sky as blue as you can imagine, a sunset, a fire with friends.
Today, the wind started in earnest about a half-mile away, as I was headed downhill. When I reached the intersection at the Great Highway, pedaling hard to cross the street before the light turned, the sea, churned up with white caps, was a dull, sick green-gray. No soothing ocean smell, no soft crash of wave on shore, only a droning, persistent roar of wind and water.
Two crows picked through a trash pile left beside a blown-out illegal fire pit. Families hunkered down behind sand dunes, bicycles leaning against a sea wall covered in ugly graffiti—no street artists here. The cracked concrete exposed rusted metal rebar. An old man struggled with his Sunday constitutional, a gust plucking his cap from his head. Dirty weeds grew in the cracks between wall and sidewalk, ice plant on the divider covered in road-grime from the Great Highway. The asphalt and concrete had been torn up, orange netting surrounding them, no place for pedestrians to cross.
No shouts of joy, no seagull cries, no thing to love or marvel at. Even the lone kite down the beach was uninviting—a black, winged shark above the waste. I held my backpack against my stomach for warmth, face to the wind and the sea. No place to stop, and read my book, and eat the strawberries I had brought in my pack. Back, across the road, stark windmills, unmoving, stood sentinel.
Two men and a woman passed by, one of them pointing out the smoothness of the sand, the color of the sky. They did not see that the marine layer far across the water promised a windier, colder, foggier night, or that the sand, slippery and fine underfoot, treacherous, flowed across itself, a quiet whispering as the wind blew the grains back against the wall, piling up around corners, burying stairs, erasing my footprints.