Out of the Blue

November 29, 2009
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The beach at San Francisco isn't like most other beaches you've seen, all white and sunny and pristine and fresh out of a glossy print brochure. There are no hordes of parasols lined up bright and busy, no scantily clad supermodels sashaying around, no kitschy overpriced vendors selling you every type of useless item under the sun.

That's because there is no sun. There is cement. There is sand. There is fog.

And there is the ocean itself, gray and gloomy and gyring like no other. It swallows you up and spits you out, but not always, since there's a wicked row of ripcurrents lurking just beyond the shore. It's cold and frigid and heartless, like a lover who doesn't love you anymore, and I found myself standing on the sand, staring into the glum horizon, trying to figure out how I'd ended up there in the first place.

I knew exactly how, actually. I'd hopped on the 23 and hopped off at Ocean Beach a few minutes ago, hoping to find some sort of earthshaking revelation about growing up while I was there, or at least something to break the humdrum doldrums of my life. So far, all I'd found was the cold.

I hate the weather in San Francisco.

"You shouldn't," a voice said out of the blue. I spun around, shocked. Did I just say that out loud?

"I love the weather in San Francisco," continued the voice, and I learned that it was coming from a tall, gorgeous woman a few feet behind me. "It's so beautiful to see the fog rolling down the hills."

"It's cold and I never know what to school and I hate it," I replied. I knew I sounded like a little kid but I'd just noticed one standing next to her. Every time I see a kid I start acting like one, maybe so they'll see me as one of their own and not a big scary grownup.

"Mm," she murmured, looking out at the sea. We continued staring in silence. I didn't want to give the wrong impression to someone I'd just met, so I turned back around and said, "Isn't your kid supposed to be in school?"

She blinked, then glanced at me as if she'd just realized I was there. "Aren't you?" she replied, with a hint of a smile just under the surface.

"Yeah," I said, defiantly looking her in the eye, daring her to keep up and ask me why I was at the beach, or launch into some half-assed lecture about the evils of cutting and how I was dooming myself to a lifetime of failure. I've heard it all before. I was ready, really I was.


Well, that was anticlimactic.

I waited a few more seconds before asking "So why's your kid here then?"

"It's been a while. We're going home," she replied. "We're walking."

"Oh, you live around here?" I asked, suddenly interested. Maybe I could cop some free food or something.

"No, we're going across the sea."

What?! I searched her face for some sort of sign that she was crazy. Was I alone on the beach with a lunatic and her kid? She seemed normal to me. Then again, maybe they all did.

"The water's cold," I said. "You're going to catch hypothermia. The riptides are going to catch you. You'll die!"

"No, we won't," she laughed. "We'll be able to walk." She took her child by the hand and proceeded down to the waves.

I stood there dumbfounded, watching as they stepped into the water. Their pace was slow but sure, each step even and firm. Wow, I thought to myself. She's really doing it.

The next thing I knew they were walking, but they weren't in the water. They were on it. I blinked, pinching myself to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. Was anyone else seeing this? I looked around, searching for someone to be there with me, to let me know I wasn't crazy like this crazy woman, that I was actually watching her and her kid walking on water.

I looked back. They were gone.

Were they ever there in the first place? I don't even know. The beach at San Francisco isn't like most other beaches. It's the last spit of humanity before you reach the ocean, with all its waves and water and weird wonderful things lurking in the depths, and it's full of secrets and stories and maybe even magic for all I know, but I don't know. Do you?

I hope she made it home.

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