She only wanted to see the ocean, she had never seen it in winter. The beach was empty and bright under the January sun, in the fair light that reveals the transparency in things. It sparkled in the morning and the ocean to her sounded so clear. There was nothing left of the summer but the sound of the waves.
A strange sense of transgression occurred to her as she slowly crossed the endless beach towards the ocean at low tide. It had always seemed to her a kind of pilgrimage. For what proof does one have that something still exists, when one cannot see it? How could she be sure the beach existed in winter? This was not the usual scenery, the rules had changed, she was not supposed to be there. She just wanted to see the ocean. And there she was, blinded in the morning light, walking towards the noise.
She sat on the sand, a little more than half way through the journey. She was still wearing the clothes she had carelessly chosen to go to work, a few hours before. The night had been full of strange, distorted dreams; she had woken up in the middle of it with the sensation of the waves breaking on her face. Since he had left her, her nights were short but her sleep bottomless, as she almost wildly abandoned herself after having struggled for hours against the dark. Fortunately she had not dreamt, until last night. Only sensations remained of it, and there was this idea: she had never seen the ocean in winter. The idea did not leave her as she dressed. She distractedly looked outside, and only then realised there was no sign of dawn. After all, she lived only little less than four hours from the ocean.
She felt on strange ground, though she knew the place so well. The ocean in winter belongs to seagulls and to the wind, it belongs to the light and to the moon. It felt unjust to impose herself on space and bring there her disarray.
Forgive me, she said, I wanted to see the seagulls and the wind, the light and the waves, I am so heavy and dark.
A bird was flying erratically downwards, as if falling from the sky. She reached out mechanically; then her hand slowly lowered, as the bird seemed to stabilize, buoyed up by the air.
She used to spend hours on the beach, when she was little, sitting on the sand among bath towels and volleyball players, straining her eyes and thinking, if I look hard enough, if I really try, I will see what is behind the waves. People used to tell her that the ocean had an end, in front of her, and people said it was America. She knew America was full of high buildings reaching towards the sky, people said they could even touch it. The waves could not possibly get that high.
When she got up, the wind started twisting her hair, sweeping it away and back; suddenly, it blasted in her ears, and rushed at the ocean. Her waist tensed up and bent, frail still. She looked above, the bird was gone, probably blown away. The waves broke far from the shore but stretched towards her, until they were caught up and taken back by some invisible force. Decidedly, they would gain ground, move back and whirl up again, and would not let the wind contradict their stubborn advance. There was nothing behind, she knew that. She could feel bubbles inside, and she grew more and more aware of their movements, so that she felt angry with herself; strangely, they seemed able to cover the noise of the ocean, when she only wanted to listen. She put her hands on her stomach and all outward noise disappeared, replaced by the beating against her hands. She withdrew them immediately, as if she had touched something hot.
She seemed to wake up from a dream when the wave broke on her face.