the beach

The Beach By Renn Bloemendaal

There is a boy playing in the sand. 

There are many boys, on bright days, when the wind is heavy with heat. 

But there is this boy, hair of coral strands, playing in the sand. 

Wet and cold and shivering 

He doesn’t seem to mind. 

—— —— ——

The boy has returned. 

There are none of his kind here. 

The birds of white and screeching have long since disappeared, 

and yet, there is the boy. 

His head a stain of red on the grey dark morning sand. 

He takes a shell, and then another, and then more. He carries them, carefully, further into shore. He places them, gently still, in a pattern around his feet. Around, around, around. 

It takes him till the light has gone. 

No one calls for him. 

—— —— ——

The waters are too strong for the white cold to take hold, but the creaking of rivers warn of dire times. 

and yet, there is the boy. 

—— —— ——

           Shells 

and shells and shells 

         and shells            and shells 

      and shells                   and shells 

        and shells               and shells 

              and shells  and shells 

                       and shells 

—— —— ——

There is a boy, laying shells into shapes. 

There are many boys today. 

Some walk to the boy.

Some talk to the boy.

    Some—

Shells break easily. 

The boy does not cry. 

He sighs.

But rain will come for him. 

Cold and wet and he won’t mind.

There are no boys playing in the sand. 

Only one. 

—— —— ——

Shells are abandoned homes.

—— —— ——

The dark still lingers when the boy returns.

His feet are quiet.     

He is hunted. 

He is scared. 

But the shells, he counts them. It helps. 

878 879

There is a voice. 

923 924

There is shouting. 

931 932

Moving light. 

998 999 1

“James! You cursed child! I forbade you—“ 

The boy runs. 

—— —— ——

Shells crack easily. 

He does not return. 

Not as a boy. 

—— —— ——

The young man is familiar. 

His face framed in flames. 

He wanders, lingers. 

He has forgotten the shells. 

But when he leaves, he is smiling. 

—— —— ——

The young man returns. 

Early, before the many boys arrive. 

He never picks up a shell. 

He always leaves with the birds. 

They never tell where they take him. 

—— —— ——

The young man has his feet in the water. A wave touches him gently. 

“I don’t know if I’ll be back.” 

There is a shell beside his toe. 

“I’m free of them.” 

The young man grabs the shell. 

1000

“I don’t need to return. They can’t make me.” 

The young man leaves.

It’s still in his hand. 

—— —— ——

There is a man, looking at the shells. 

“I can’t believe how small the bay is.”

He is speaking to another. 

Curls like the sand in golden light. A smile twice as bright. 

“To children, the world is an endless place.” 

The golden man does not crush shells. He steps around. He circles. 

He circles the man. Carefully. One foot heavier than the other. 

“I came back here, every summer, too. After. I was no child then.” 

A storm was coming. It can wait. The wind should stay quiet for a little longer. 

“I don’t know, dear, maybe you have grown in more ways than size, since you last came. Maybe you needed this place to be endless then too.” 

“Hmm.” 

“Are you sure you want to meet her alone?” 

“They won’t accept you there. You’re not— you’re not family, to them.” 

“That is not what I’m asking.” 

“Simon.” 

“What do you need, James?” 

“I’m going alone.” 

The golden man has dimmed. 

They wander, they linger. 

“Despite everything, I can’t help but feel safe. Here.”

The golden man holds him gently,

as if the boy— the man cracks easily too. 

“I am glad there was a place you could go.” 

—— —— ——

The man returns alone, in the dark. 

The storm has come. It could not wait longer. 

Wet, cold, shivering. 

But he does not seem to mind. 

Lightning strikes. 

Too close. 

He does not seem to mind. 

Moving light. Shouting. 

“James!” 

The man does not run this time. 

“James, what on earth are you— you’re being reckless! This is too dangerous!” 

The golden one comes closer. His step is uneven, but he tries. 

Wet, cold, shivering. 

He minds. 

He is terrified. 

“Come back with me, dear. Please. Nothing she said is worth this. She cannot— you cannot let her do this to you again.” 

Lightning strikes once more. 

“You don’t know anything!” 

The golden man stops. 

“Leave me alone.” 

They do not leave together. 

They do not return together. 

—— —— ——

There is a man, drawing in the sand. 

It is not the boy— the young man,

the man. 

It is the other. 

He is drawing patterns. 

Circles. Around and around. 

“I cannot let him do this alone.” 

He sighs louder than wind.

“Why here? Why did he go here? Why did he not come back to me. Am I not—“ 

The golden man shivers. He sits down. He is thinking. The sea breathes with him. 

Familiar footsteps, silent, in the dunes above. Watching. Thinking. 

“I suppose it is peaceful here. If a bit wet.”

The golden man pads the sand besides him. 

Gently. 

A thank you. 

Then he stands. He sees the man walking towards him. 

“James! I didn’t think—“

“They buried him. Didn’t stick around for the after party.” 

“I understand. Does that mean we can go h— back?” 

The man looks away. 

“The lawyers are coming tomorrow. They’re dividing the estate.”

“… and you want to stay.” 

The man does not answer. 

—— —— ——

The man comes late again. 

Alone again.

He is throwing shells into the sea. 

1025 1026 1027

But he is not counting. 

He is screaming. 

“I hate them. I hate all of them!” 

He is sobbing. 

“But I have to. I have to.” 

—— —— ——

There are men, shouting on the beach. 

Their voices like a storm, approaching. 

“I told you to let me go! Don’t meddle with this too! You’re always—“ 

“This is killing you. I don’t understand! Why do you insist on putting yourself through this! It has been days, James. How long are you letting this go on?”

The man stills. He looks away. 

“We will back in time for your surgery.” 

“That is not what I’m worried about at all!”

“Maybe you should be.”

The man leaves. 

The golden one stays, for a little while, and cries. 

—— —— ——

There are no men on the beach. No boys too. 

It’s quiet. 

—— —— ——

The golden one comes back first. 

Sunlight welcomes his arrival. 

He sits down. Touches his leg. Hisses. 

He is—

Driftwood on the shore. Beautiful. Cracked. 

Something crushed it. Hurt him bad. 

The man sighs and draws in the sand. 

“It can’t be the money. It just can’t be.” 

There is no one to listen.

Yet he speaks.

“He doesn’t care— he never cared. Not about this. But now— I don’t know, anymore, what he cares about. Why, he cares about this. Is what we have not enough?” 

The wind sharpens. Waves crash. 

He shivers. 

“No. No. He would have said. He would have told me.” 

Calm seas again. 

“There must be something— something he doesn’t want to tell me. Something he is afraid I won’t—“ 

The golden one is holding his leg tight. 

“Oh— Oh!” 

This lightning does not hit the sand. It flashes on his face. 

Bright. Flush. 

Love. 

The golden man stands. He is hurting. 

He doesn’t seem to mind. 

—— —— ——

“Why here?” 

“Because I want you to feel safe.”

“Your leg—“

“It’s okay, dear. You’re taking most of my weight.” 

“You should be careful.” 

“I am. Come, sit down. It’s dry.” 

“Fine.”

“Just for a moment. It’s nice out today.”

“…What did you want to say, Simon.” 

“I— I didn’t understand. And I’m sorry, for shouting. For not seeing it sooner. But I think— I think I know now.”

“Simon—“

“You’re so very important to me, James. You are the most important thing. You know that right? Nothing else— nothing else even comes close.” 

“…”

“It’s alright, dear boy, come here. I know— we’ve had a rough go of it. The leg, and now… here. It’s alright.” 

“I’m just trying— I’m just trying to make it all okay again, darling. But I— it’s hard.” 

“I know you are. But this, love, this is not worth it. You’re hurting. It breaks my heart to see.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to—“

“We said we wouldn’t hide things, not anymore.”

“I know. But, you’ve been— You’re in pain too, and I just—“

“You wanted to fix it.” 

“I wanted one good thing to come out of this. I wanted— I want you to live without worries.” 

“I’m worried now, dear. Debt— I much rather have you happy. We will figure it out, won’t we?” 

“There is just… I know I’ve been doing this wrong. I should have told you from the start. I should have let you— help me. But I didn’t. I don’t know not to be alone here.” 

“Oh James. Oh dear god.” 

“Shh, it’s okay. You are here. You stayed. Even when I tried to push you away. You stayed.”

“I will. I always— if you want me gone and you are— okay. Or, when you will be happier without me, then of course I will go. But this time. I just thought that you…” 

“You were right. You did the right thing, darling. I never wanted you gone.”

“Good. That’s good.”

“And I know now, that you’re here with me. So, let me try. Let us try together. Let us do something here that will make our lives better. Because they have never once done that. This money. It’s never been used to make me happy, Simon. And I want to spend it on you— your health. Your safety. Because that would make me happy.”

“James… I—”

“Just breathe. It’s alright.” 

There is never silence on a beach. The wind hisses. Weaves breathe. Creatures scuttle forth. 

But now, it seems to be. 

All waiting on the golden man. 

He is thinking. In pain. 

Torn. Broken. 

The man holds him and waits too. 

“Okay.” 

Wind, waves, creatures, man. 

Exhale. 

“We’ll try, together. But if it goes too far. If it threatens to break you…”

“We’ll leave.”

“We’ll go home, James.” 

“Alright. I promise.” 

The song of the sea plays again. 

“Come, it’s getting cold. You shouldn’t be out this long, you’re shivering.”

“I don’t mind, love. Lets walk, just for a little while. We might not come back here again.” 

“We can, if you want to— not for her, not for them. Just here. For us.”

“I’d like that. I feel as if I might miss this beach, somehow.”

“Yeah. I always do.” 

The boy— the young man, the man, picks up shells along the shore.

Gifts of the sea floor. 

Only one hand free, fingers entangled. Golden. 

He places them. Round and round.

The other watches, smiles. Draws in the sand. 

The man gives the last shell, the one he had taken, so long ago. 

“You finish it, darling.”

The circle is complete. 

—— —— ——

There are men playing in the sand. 

Laughing, smiling. 

One gold, one red. 

They come when the sun shines bright and the sand is hot.

And leave with the birds, before the wind grows cold. 

Where do you take them? 

We bring them home.

There is a boy playing in the sand. 

There are many boys, on bright days, when the wind is heavy with heat. 

But there is this boy, hair of coral strands, playing in the sand. 

Wet and cold and shivering 

He doesn’t seem to mind. 

—— —— ——

The boy has returned. 

There are none of his kind here. 

The birds of white and screeching have long since disappeared, 

and yet, there is the boy. 

His head a stain of red on the grey dark morning sand. 

He takes a shell, and then another, and then more. He carries them, carefully, further into shore. He places them, gently still, in a pattern around his feet. Around, around, around. 

It takes him till the light has gone. 

No one calls for him. 

—— —— ——

The waters are too strong for the white cold to take hold, but the creaking of rivers warn of dire times. 

and yet, there is the boy. 

—— —— ——

           Shells 

and shells and shells 

         and shells            and shells 

      and shells                   and shells 

        and shells               and shells 

              and shells  and shells 

                       and shells 

—— —— ——

There is a boy, laying shells into shapes. 

There are many boys today. 

Some walk to the boy.

Some talk to the boy.

    Some—

Shells break easily. 

The boy does not cry. 

He sighs.

But rain will come for him. 

Cold and wet and he won’t mind.

There are no boys playing in the sand. 

Only one. 

—— —— ——

Shells are abandoned homes.

—— —— ——

The dark still lingers when the boy returns.

His feet are quiet.     

He is hunted. 

He is scared. 

But the shells, he counts them. It helps. 

878 879

There is a voice. 

923 924

There is shouting. 

931 932

Moving light. 

998 999 1

“James! You cursed child! I forbade you—“ 

The boy runs. 

—— —— ——

Shells crack easily. 

He does not return. 

Not as a boy. 

—— —— ——

The young man is familiar. 

His face framed in flames. 

He wanders, lingers. 

He has forgotten the shells. 

But when he leaves, he is smiling. 

—— —— ——

The young man returns. 

Early, before the many boys arrive. 

He never picks up a shell. 

He always leaves with the birds. 

They never tell where they take him. 

—— —— ——

The young man has his feet in the water. A wave touches him gently. 

“I don’t know if I’ll be back.” 

There is a shell beside his toe. 

“I’m free of them.” 

The young man grabs the shell. 

1000

“I don’t need to return. They can’t make me.” 

The young man leaves.

It’s still in his hand. 

—— —— ——

There is a man, looking at the shells. 

“I can’t believe how small the bay is.”

He is speaking to another. 

Curls like the sand in golden light. A smile twice as bright. 

“To children, the world is an endless place.” 

The golden man does not crush shells. He steps around. He circles. 

He circles the man. Carefully. One foot heavier than the other. 

“I came back here, every summer, too. After. I was no child then.” 

A storm was coming. It can wait. The wind should stay quiet for a little longer. 

“I don’t know, dear, maybe you have grown in more ways than size, since you last came. Maybe you needed this place to be endless then too.” 

“Hmm.” 

“Are you sure you want to meet her alone?” 

“They won’t accept you there. You’re not— you’re not family, to them.” 

“That is not what I’m asking.” 

“Simon.” 

“What do you need, James?” 

“I’m going alone.” 

The golden man has dimmed. 

They wander, they linger. 

“Despite everything, I can’t help but feel safe. Here.”

The golden man holds him gently,

as if the boy— the man cracks easily too. 

“I am glad there was a place you could go.” 

—— —— ——

The man returns alone, in the dark. 

The storm has come. It could not wait longer. 

Wet, cold, shivering. 

But he does not seem to mind. 

Lightning strikes. 

Too close. 

He does not seem to mind. 

Moving light. Shouting. 

“James!” 

The man does not run this time. 

“James, what on earth are you— you’re being reckless! This is too dangerous!” 

The golden one comes closer. His step is uneven, but he tries. 

Wet, cold, shivering. 

He minds. 

He is terrified. 

“Come back with me, dear. Please. Nothing she said is worth this. She cannot— you cannot let her do this to you again.” 

Lightning strikes once more. 

“You don’t know anything!” 

The golden man stops. 

“Leave me alone.” 

They do not leave together. 

They do not return together. 

—— —— ——

There is a man, drawing in the sand. 

It is not the boy— the young man,

the man. 

It is the other. 

He is drawing patterns. 

Circles. Around and around. 

“I cannot let him do this alone.” 

He sighs louder than wind.

“Why here? Why did he go here? Why did he not come back to me. Am I not—“ 

The golden man shivers. He sits down. He is thinking. The sea breathes with him. 

Familiar footsteps, silent, in the dunes above. Watching. Thinking. 

“I suppose it is peaceful here. If a bit wet.”

The golden man pads the sand besides him. 

Gently. 

A thank you. 

Then he stands. He sees the man walking towards him. 

“James! I didn’t think—“

“They buried him. Didn’t stick around for the after party.” 

“I understand. Does that mean we can go h— back?” 

The man looks away. 

“The lawyers are coming tomorrow. They’re dividing the estate.”

“… and you want to stay.” 

The man does not answer. 

—— —— ——

The man comes late again. 

Alone again.

He is throwing shells into the sea. 

1025 1026 1027

But he is not counting. 

He is screaming. 

“I hate them. I hate all of them!” 

He is sobbing. 

“But I have to. I have to.” 

—— —— ——

There are men, shouting on the beach. 

Their voices like a storm, approaching. 

“I told you to let me go! Don’t meddle with this too! You’re always—“ 

“This is killing you. I don’t understand! Why do you insist on putting yourself through this! It has been days, James. How long are you letting this go on?”

The man stills. He looks away. 

“We will back in time for your surgery.” 

“That is not what I’m worried about at all!”

“Maybe you should be.”

The man leaves. 

The golden one stays, for a little while, and cries. 

—— —— ——

There are no men on the beach. No boys too. 

It’s quiet. 

—— —— ——

The golden one comes back first. 

Sunlight welcomes his arrival. 

He sits down. Touches his leg. Hisses. 

He is—

Driftwood on the shore. Beautiful. Cracked. 

Something crushed it. Hurt him bad. 

The man sighs and draws in the sand. 

“It can’t be the money. It just can’t be.” 

There is no one to listen.

Yet he speaks.

“He doesn’t care— he never cared. Not about this. But now— I don’t know, anymore, what he cares about. Why, he cares about this. Is what we have not enough?” 

The wind sharpens. Waves crash. 

He shivers. 

“No. No. He would have said. He would have told me.” 

Calm seas again. 

“There must be something— something he doesn’t want to tell me. Something he is afraid I won’t—“ 

The golden one is holding his leg tight. 

“Oh— Oh!” 

This lightning does not hit the sand. It flashes on his face. 

Bright. Flush. 

Love. 

The golden man stands. He is hurting. 

He doesn’t seem to mind. 

—— —— ——

“Why here?” 

“Because I want you to feel safe.”

“Your leg—“

“It’s okay, dear. You’re taking most of my weight.” 

“You should be careful.” 

“I am. Come, sit down. It’s dry.” 

“Fine.”

“Just for a moment. It’s nice out today.”

“…What did you want to say, Simon.” 

“I— I didn’t understand. And I’m sorry, for shouting. For not seeing it sooner. But I think— I think I know now.”

“Simon—“

“You’re so very important to me, James. You are the most important thing. You know that right? Nothing else— nothing else even comes close.” 

“…”

“It’s alright, dear boy, come here. I know— we’ve had a rough go of it. The leg, and now… here. It’s alright.” 

“I’m just trying— I’m just trying to make it all okay again, darling. But I— it’s hard.” 

“I know you are. But this, love, this is not worth it. You’re hurting. It breaks my heart to see.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to—“

“We said we wouldn’t hide things, not anymore.”

“I know. But, you’ve been— You’re in pain too, and I just—“

“You wanted to fix it.” 

“I wanted one good thing to come out of this. I wanted— I want you to live without worries.” 

“I’m worried now, dear. Debt— I much rather have you happy. We will figure it out, won’t we?” 

“There is just… I know I’ve been doing this wrong. I should have told you from the start. I should have let you— help me. But I didn’t. I don’t know not to be alone here.” 

“Oh James. Oh dear god.” 

“Shh, it’s okay. You are here. You stayed. Even when I tried to push you away. You stayed.”

“I will. I always— if you want me gone and you are— okay. Or, when you will be happier without me, then of course I will go. But this time. I just thought that you…” 

“You were right. You did the right thing, darling. I never wanted you gone.”

“Good. That’s good.”

“And I know now, that you’re here with me. So, let me try. Let us try together. Let us do something here that will make our lives better. Because they have never once done that. This money. It’s never been used to make me happy, Simon. And I want to spend it on you— your health. Your safety. Because that would make me happy.”

“James… I—”

“Just breathe. It’s alright.” 

There is never silence on a beach. The wind hisses. Weaves breathe. Creatures scuttle forth. 

But now, it seems to be. 

All waiting on the golden man. 

He is thinking. In pain. 

Torn. Broken. 

The man holds him and waits too. 

“Okay.” 

Wind, waves, creatures, man. 

Exhale. 

“We’ll try, together. But if it goes too far. If it threatens to break you…”

“We’ll leave.”

“We’ll go home, James.” 

“Alright. I promise.” 

The song of the sea plays again. 

“Come, it’s getting cold. You shouldn’t be out this long, you’re shivering.”

“I don’t mind, love. Lets walk, just for a little while. We might not come back here again.” 

“We can, if you want to— not for her, not for them. Just here. For us.”

“I’d like that. I feel as if I might miss this beach, somehow.”

“Yeah. I always do.” 

The boy— the young man, the man, picks up shells along the shore.

Gifts of the sea floor. 

Only one hand free, fingers entangled. Golden. 

He places them. Round and round.

The other watches, smiles. Draws in the sand. 

The man gives the last shell, the one he had taken, so long ago. 

“You finish it, darling.”

The circle is complete. 

—— —— ——

There are men playing in the sand. 

Laughing, smiling. 

One gold, one red. 

They come when the sun shines bright and the sand is hot.

And leave with the birds, before the wind grows cold. 

Where do you take them? 

We bring them home. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *