The Beach Diaries 2012 – #6
* Outside, the world is ending. That famous quote from Taxi Driver, about how someday, a real rain will come and wash all the scum from the streets – I think today is that day. Relentless, violent cloudburst sees roads that flow like rivers and a beach that cowers behind yellow cordon tape and half-submerged fire engines. The flats along the seafront are evacuated, with dazed home-owners wrapped in blankets and led to a makeshift shelter at the swimming centre, leaving their wedding photos to float down the hallway on a tide of detritus.
My first thought, even as a hardcore, foot-stomping atheist, is “God doesn’t want the Beach Diaries to happen,” but thinking on it, maybe they’re the cause. Maybe they’re exactly why the streets bubble underfoot; overfed drains puking on their own mess like Gluttony in Se7en. The shirtless lads, the people drunk out of their minds before noon, the brutish, awful parents; and the pretentious writers who ogle passing women behind the safety of sunglasses — why wouldn’t he want to wash us all into the seas, like ants from the doorstep? They say He sees everything, but there’s so much filth and decay, that even the omnipotent must have trouble keeping track of it all. What he needed was a spy, a grass, a shameful stool pigeon that distilled the sins of the beach into a ready-to-read private investigator’s file, bullet-pointed and hand-picked, and cause enough to push him over the edge and slam his hand down onto the reboot button. I doomed us all, like a schoolboy who ran to the staffroom to let them know the teacher hadn’t shown up for class.
I listen to the rain on the other side of the window and picture it all being swept clean. The booths are the first to go, fracturing under the weight, and spilling a brightly coloured flock of balls, buckets, and oversized straw hats onto the surface. The long bench creaks free of the prom, lurching into the ocean like a giant snake, and dragging rake-like across the sand, pulling everybody out towards the horizon. Heads go under ar-art, mate?-ing with their final breath, while slim, tanned, female arms thrust skyward from the waves, clicking out one last Instagram shot for the Facebook wall.
“Montague, will you behave?!” yells a father in a Keep Calm and Carry On t-shirt, as a powerful wave snaps his spine in half, folding him backwards like a stapler. Limbs thrash, and throats glug, with every drowning man noting the loose, floating bikini tops and dying while swathed in the frenzied hope that he’ll catch sight of a bare breast as he goes under. Big Shirtless Ron, sinewy muscles fighting against the downpour, desperately tries to make it to the safety of Hot Lifeguard’s surfboard, so that they might repopulate the planet before the waves drag them down. “I probably won’t tell her about the vasectomy,” he thinks, already on the hard.
And me, biro between my teeth, pondering whether to use dying moments to let them all know that it’s my fault and I’m sorry, or to see if I can spot one of those breasts that are rumoured to be bare. In the second before my lungs fill, my life rushes before my eyes, and like a wobbly-lined flashback in a TV show, I’m taken back to last week, when my notepad was yellowing under the sun, and the concept of rain was some distant, primal memory. At the time, these were just regular notes for a regular day, but seen through the eyes of a discontented creator, reason enough to drown us all in sky-piss without a second thought.
* A grizzling little girl of about six slaps at her mother. The mother clouts her right back, with an impact that’s loud enough to hear.
“You always have to spoil it,” she says, slowly traipsing off. The girl’s grandmother quietly leans down and console her, taking her hand, and following behind.
* A man walking by himself wears a t-shirt with the word TWAT in big letters above an arrow that points off to his right.
* A father wears a lampshade as a sun hat. An actual lampshade.
* Overheard conversation snippets. Old lady sitting on a bench:
“Ooh, this seat’s burning my bum.”
* A barefoot man aggressively slamdunks his shoes into a bin as he strides past.
* I take a long walk, far past the tourists. It’s a hard, tiring slog, some stumbly miles along the pebbles, and I’m not even sure why I’m doing it, but at the unexpected sight of a random topless woman sat on the shingle as I pass nearby, I feel I’ve been granted some kind of lecher’s Karmic reward. The summer makes perverts of us all.
* A noise comes out of my mouth as I bob above the rising waters for my last, fleeting glimpse of sky. It’s neither a laugh nor crying, but something inbetween. Forgive me.
The complete collection (plus appendices) of 2011’s Beach Diaries are available to buy for the Amazon Kindle for £1.99/$2.99. If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon have a free Kindle app for PC/Mac/phones/tablets, available right here.