By Will Watson / July 2017
I left the hotel while I still had enough light to dodge traffic, walking. I carried Dylan Thomas’ Collected Poems, a pen, and a half-sheet of ivory paper across Seawall Boulevard into the turn lane. I paced west, steady, so as to not look like a fool for jaywalking, but I needed to go east so I turned. Much daylight wasted by walking in the wrong directions as the sun was behind the bay now. It didn’t help that the staircases for descending the seawall into the sand below were far enough down Babe’s Beach in either direction to render jaywalking impractical. Oh well.
When I arrived at the proper stairs I descended, and I then realized I no longer wanted to wear my slides. I found a dune against the seawall (and one conspicuous enough that I could identify it later) and buried them at its base, and I walked through the white sand toward the last jetty.
Another white dune ahead some fifty paces, and the clear sea and sky and people chattering in every direction, echoing off the curve of the seawall in inordinate bends, disobeying where my eyes demanded to find the origin of the voices. Ghostish, phantoms in the wet, brown, packed tidal sands.
I stumbled down indianstyle atop this second white dune, stumbled into this stretched moment, and I allowed it to suspend itself for a reason that reveals my own nature: I liked the moment. I talked inwardly with the sea, it speaking much more than I understood in its calm, unceasing wisdom, vast and conquering, but only whispering now. I watched the ships inside of the horizon line prepare to harbor, and I watched the infinitesimal flicker of the oil derricks as they fell below, slowly below, that same line. Everything fading, folding grey against the yawning Daylight, giving her hand to the sharp crescent Moon above the seawall.
But even as the familiar fade and sounds and lights danced, I happened upon irony. When I dug my fingers below the surface of the dune and buried my hands to my wrists, I found the sand hot as daylight. Warmth holding on in the cooling breeze, against the cooling breeze, which pulls and pulls, even more strongly that the laughing, whispering surf. And the people, too, whispering and laughing themselves with the surf even as day fades and cars continue to roar on the boulevard above me.
The irony that the buried sand retained warmth in spite of the southerly night breeze bouncing atop the cool waves. I then sought more irony and found it. There I sat in an ethereal suspension on my dune, inwardly alone in the wild of the coast, but facing the circle of ships and oil derricks in their brawny steel and diesel, and behind me the rush of tourist traffic and hotels and shops still selling and lights and sounds of clangs and industry beyond in the bay, and closer still the chatter of other voices in their own moments, and lights along the jetty. A little boy with a fishing pole disproportionately larger than himself bouncing through the jetty’s lamps, charging evenly in and out of sight as if a Greek soldier with his lance pointing up and out amongst tribal lanterns. The bar above the gulf waters at the end of the jetty is multicolored and soundless but filled with the unheard-to-me sounds of fishermen and those still holding on to their fading moments on the island.
The irony that I have made myself alone in this untainted moment on this white dune, while the creeping fingers and buzz of economy and oil and buying besiege this little piece of Babe’s Beach.
I close my eyes and forget the dune and the beach and the gulf. I ask my daughter to be with me, be with me in the south breeze as it echoes and boils around the curve of the seawall and presses against my western ear, be with me in the warmth below the cool finish of the white dune’s surface sand, be with me in the laughter of the sea and in the kick of the salt smell in the air, be with me in the heaviness of the humid atmosphere that mats my hair, be with me in the dabbed movement of the grey-as-the-water seagulls (the same grey, as if birded windows to some ocean behind the sky), be with me on the sharp edge of the crescent Moonlight as he dances with his belle Sunlight and dips her behind the bay. My daughter is here. I say, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, and Jesus is here, and I ask Jesus to hold my daughter, and I imagine Jesus does. Be with me in my inability to hold her.
I opened my eyes to the dimmest jumping waves, dusted white with foamy spray, and the squawk of hungry gulls just this side of nightfall, and stars had begun to peek through the force of the boulevard’s light. I wrote some things down and read some poems and took to the east before remembering my slides. I unearthed them and headed east once more.
I could walk east to the nearest crosswalk, but I when I approached the jetty I turned around and walked west. I took off my slides and waded calf deep all the way to the western-most crossing, and I ascended and crossed the boulevard and moved back east to the hotel. As I took my rings off in the room I could still feel the warmth of the sub-dune sand, and as I sat still in my bed I could hear the laughter of the surf; warmth and laughter, handing me the stillest hope in the grey of nightfall as I entered my dreams.
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And if you’re ever on Galveston Island, go check out The Spot on Seawall Blvd., just a few blocks west of the Pleasure Pier. The fish tacos are happening.