A Journey through the Sandwiches—Manwich

For nine years I did toil over nights on phosphorescent beaches trawling in through sand so lonely never seeing that what comes to greet the world after the moonlight. Was I alone? No, not alone. But no sunshine on a smiling face I ever saw.

On phosphorescent beaches the light below the clear water shines a blue within the blackness, eerie and alien. It’s the algae, it’s the weeds. They call it bioluminescence. It’s alive. Electric blue cords wind around my rubber boots, for nine years, a-glowing. We were here to preserve the ocean at night. We come to keep the lights alive. With our hooks we remove the detritus, the trash and plastic, wilted paper, sharkbitten synthetics, sneakers far from any home.

The job was necessary. The job, mechanically, was easy. The sights were at times beautiful, the sorts of nights that made you realize up til then you’d never truly seen the sky. But everyone I met was angry. Everyone was tired, up and down the beach at our own outposts, a mile or more in between. We worked from dusk to dawn, separated, and for years I grew more quiet til there were days I never spoke at all.

And there were days I found no beauty in the luminescence, glowing blue, and green, and sometimes red. Then I would catch the colors occasionally mingling into breathtaking shades of rare violet, giving me pause amidst the softly lapping waves. There were days I looked out over this limitless expanse, the ocean around my feet with its living ribbons of light, the space above a piercing mist of far off radiant forms, and felt nothing. Other times I knew my privilege. Sometimes I felt I saw it all. I felt everything, at peace.

But sometimes…

Sometimes I cast down my hooks, and set myself adrift at sea, without an oar, drifting until looking back the shore was all but gone. And I would spin in the directions that the wind and waves would take me, toward ports and places I could not possibly know. I accepted fate as random chance. I turned away from everyone. For so long up and down that cobalt beach, I did not love or hold an other, I found contentment only down a bottle or in pills, for pain, in my neck and back from working, pain behind my eyes from sitting still and dreaming, eyes half-lidded thinking of another life I’d like to have so like this but just… better. In the sun, the light, with songs I’ve long forgotten in my heart filling my ears again, letting my mind wander into sleep at night for once, quiet as the sun makes its way around the world and wakes us up again. The sight of it is so beautiful, if I could still understand.

After all these years I no longer see its light as greeting; I see it as goodbye. And though I set myself adrift at sea without an oar intending on nowhere, anywhere but where I left, always I arrived back on the beach beneath the creeping dawn, not so far from home as I had hoped. And I would drag the boat back to my outpost, drawing off my boots and shirt, following my tired feet back to my soothing corner and the mattress where I sleep, on the ground in this small living space, this lean-to of a hostel, built of tin and stone and shared at times by as many as four other men, all austere and spartan, so used to the way of things, each of them stronger than me. And alone or at each other’s sides we’d stoke the fire, heating cans, warming up our bellies and our homes, up and down the cobalt beach, sleeping til the next night, when the sea begins to glow.

Photo Credit: Nicole Schultz (Pro-click to vibe with me)