Step off the Metro. Blast of heat, humidity, traffic, voices. Far off, maybe the drone of surf. In, out, in, out. Slurping at shore.
Cross the busy street. Flip flops slap against pavement. Thunk against sand.
Pass through the skateboarding exhibition. Giant half-pipe with speakers mounted up top. Neck craned to watch leaps, turns, stunts. Music blares. People all around, watching wide-eyed, cheering wide-mouthed. Ooh-ing and aah-ing. Energy vibrates through bones, saturated like sweat on skin.
Claim a small patch of soft sand, fine and pale yellow. Snap out a towel. Empty pockets. Glance around. Men strut, play volleyball, flirt. Women saunter topless, lie back baking, flirt. Eyes closed but lifted to the sun.
Wade into blue-green water. Waves swirling around ankles. Sea swallowing feet. Breaststroke out. Paddle in place. Breaststroke back.
Breathe deep, yearn for space. Everywhere, people. On the beach, in the water. Pressing close, bumping into each other, changing course, repeating. A new definition of crowded.
Only one body is welcome nearby. She chats, smiles, laughs. Her black hair bobs on the water. Clings to her neck and bare shoulders. Her white teeth light up the world in any language.
Wrong Metro stop. Longer walk. Fingers dip into pockets, hiding from the chilly breeze. Sun shining without heat. Skies a quiet, moody blue.
Windows dark, doors locked. No food, no drinks, no skateboarding. No towels, no strutting men, no topless women. Two brave souls in wetsuits ride the waves. Otherwise, no one. A new definition of desolate.
Cuff pants, peel off socks, tiptoe to water’s edge. The frigid Mediterranean says hello. Squeal of shock and joy, tinged with disappointment. Course wet sand sticks to skin, burrows between toes.
Walk away. Leave this beach to the birds.