A Wander, A Water

This Saturday I came back to my temporary apartment and laid on my side watching raindrops slice themselves open on the windowpane. I felt a funny trickling in my ear, like some fluid trying to escape. Had I been carrying the ocean in my head this entire week? No, surely.

Last weekend was my first in Sydney after several months of Melbourne lockdown, and it was also the occasion of a heat wave, so summer hit me in a single blast. I took the bus to Coogee beach, to the raging ocean, the sweat and pleasant chemical smell of so much sunscreen, tang of living saltwater, coffee and ice cream kiosks, water from hoses wasting on concrete.

Bodies everywhere, I loved seeing so many bodies, so much skin and bright swimmers, like sprinkles on a croissant when viewed from above. Much is made of the ‘beach body’, the ‘bikini body’, the insecurities existing in hot weather, but I find the opposite. This open display of bodilyness is living proof that I, my body, fits squarely in the human spectrum, and even better, that everyone’s does. There are frail bodies and fat bodies and wriggly bodies everywhere. I saw a man who was very tanned, tanned on top of his already dark skin, who had several pale pink spots near his armpit like thumbprints, as if some recessive DNA had tried to grasp on to him in utero.

I set my things down between the flags and tried to go in, but the waves were huge and fierce, breaking too early, walls and walls of water over my head, alternating with the python grip of undertow, so I lashed my way out and sat for a while on my clothes. I noticed that the far end of the beach was a bit calmer, partially sheltered by the natural baths, so I migrated that way and went for a very long swim in the gentler surf.

The sun was getting lower, and the air was euphorically warm after a day of 41 degrees. Just perfect, salt-misted, diffuse, no underlying chill as there often is near the water. There were small children everywhere. Someone was smoking weed. Lots of people had gone in for a swim, and many others were standing at the shore with arms folded, sometimes laughing at their counterparts in the water.

A tiny girl with white-blonde hair eyed me from over her mum’s shoulder. A man came in from the water and waved to them, and from his wave and his smile, I could see that the little girl had a slightly older sister standing near. The mum handed the littlest to the dad, at which point the girl began to wail and cry “mumma mumma!”, her face suddenly red as a sunburn.

The mum went in for a swim as the older sister toyed at the froth with her foot. I could connect them all now, despite their separate movements. They were a constellation. I wondered what they were having for dinner that night. I wondered if we had read any of the same books. The girl in her dad’s arms was soon smiling.