Frozen Beach

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Excerpt from my book, Soldier of Love | Dream sequence #1
painting credit: David Robertson “Nature creates amazing sculptures, that are impressive in real time and beautiful frozen.”

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I am vacationing with a close friend and others, female and male, in a warm, glistening tropical place, all at once a sweet tropical fusion of Central and South America, Africa and the Caribbean. This city we visit is persistently sun splashed with warm, golden light, bustling with busy island people, tiny cars, intimate winding roadways and above all, awash with a fresh salty perfume from the cool refreshing sea.

We decide one day to find the beach as we are certain there has to be one close by. Before this time we’ve been lullabied by sweet sounds of splashing waves, and in our imaginings, gifting miles of soft, sparkling crystals of white sand on to land. This relentless symphony has us assured that our beach is either obscured and near or, at the very least, no greater distance than a stone’s throw away. So on this day, focused and determined, we stuff ourselves into a minicab, circle white-striped, British-style roundabouts teeming with the town’s people’s ebb and flow, on a mission to find our beach. We blur past pith-helmeted policemen and women, white-gloved hands lyrically lock dancing around their shoulders, swimming in the swirling traffic they deftly guide. We speed faster and faster, farther and farther, away from the town’s central square. Over green mini-hills, past dusty rural farms and country folk hellos, to where choruses of gull songs give rise, earlier hints of waves grow deafening, threatening to engulf us, and finally we’re certain, we are near.

On arrival, we’re dismayed, for at this place where we’ve come, where land meets sea, there exists only ominous, uninviting shards of coral rock wrapped in slimy strands of slippery weed – an unending bumpy bed of dirty white and stagnant green. ‘Where’s the beach?’ we anxiously enquire of a local passerby and are elegantly pointed a little farther to his distant right. Sounds of refreshing waters instantly rush our senses again. We thank him and eagerly forge on, navigating rocky coral coast, past children playing, laughing, building dunes of seashell and sand. And like them, we too play, laugh and run. We marvel at random, perfectly pearlized oyster shells, dodging beneath our feet, from the sun. We sail over a simple, man-made, shell-encrusted bridge, and again we arrive.

But another hurdle greets us. Here, we must lineup and pay to enter a beachfront traffic jam. We school in with others and anxiously wait to deposit our token of 50 pence. Click, click, clang, clang, we’re singled and spun through cold steely turnstiles and spat out onto yet another nonexistent beach. Curiosity causes me to glance off to my right where people rush to change into skimpy bathing suits and stuff their sweaty street things, making them disappear, into a huge wall of compartmented steel. “Should we be doing the same?” I think to my friends. I shift back my gaze for their familiar faces, only to find, in that split second, they too are no longer there?

Trumpets and Latin salsa flare up, instantly, to diffuse my confusion. My ears, unable to resist the call, champion me on. I’m snapped onto a surreal, crisp, icy white runway, shooting straight out to catapult me into the fiery rhythms emanating from its end. I glide along, glancing to my left and to my right. Giant lakes of still, deep, cobalt waters frame and further outline the icy path and compelled to take. Soon enough, I realize, the lakes are frozen too. Their glassy reflections highlight mountainous shores veiled in icicled, miniature Niagaras, unreachable, way out beyond. “What an odd beach?” So blue, so surreal. Wasn’t it daytime? Is it night? So cold. So desolate. In the far distance, a lone white mountaineer navigates snowdrift cliffs. And like tongue on frosty steel, he too is flash frozen, with rigid indifference to gravity and slipping in.

Again I’m snapped, this time trapped at the slippery runway’s edge. Icy blue teases at my feet. I teeter comically, doing all I can, not to tumble in. The saucy salsa rears up again, its reprise more urgent, higher like fire. I chuckle at this cheeky challenge to spur me on. “But how will I get there?” I am Jamaican born on an oasis surrounded by the warm inviting Caribbean Sea, yet oddly, like many of that island, I’ve never learnt to swim. I love the ocean, but fear envelops me every time its salty warmth caresses my chest. This dilemma I now face is as bottomless

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as without heart, cold, blue and deep. I’d never ever survive if I were to dive in. I quiet my fears; choose to pause from panic, to draw on reason and rationale. And at that very instant, up floats, from beneath the cold cobalt below my feet, a sparkling, blue-grey, gem-encrusted sheath, fitting itself precisely against the precipice, to steer my way. I’m off again as if “to see the wizard” and ultimately my friends.

My frozen solitude melts immediately upon arrival into a bright and bustling, sun-streaked, terracotta-pink, stuccoed hall. Fragrant, island flavors tantalize my taste buds. My palette overflows. I lavish in this hot and sunny, fervent tropical warmth. Such lightness and brightness, it’s electric in here! Women at stalls, with broad, sensuous smiles and raucous, uproarious laughter, stir me to my depths with their offerings of delicious fancy fare. Names and faces of great Latin stars I love, splashed on the hall’s textured walls, randomly rush my eyes – Eva Ayllon, Cesaria Evora, João Gilberto, Valeria Munarriz and Omara Portuondo. And from a band shell in the distant corner, an all-star orchestra‘s percussive rhythm peppers the excitement, gradually swelling higher, to crisply punctuate the song’s end in perfect pitch. It’s magic. Ecstatic. The crowd erupts in orgasmic applause, dancing, jumping, cheering and shouting with deafening screams. “Thank God I’ve finally arrived.” Buoyed and overjoyed, I float through the infectious din to the beach on the other side to reunite with my friends.

I emerge from the spiced-up interior into fresh sunbathed outdoors. The fiery reverie wails on in afterglow, but manages to gradually fade in my mind. I’m awed by the beach’s immense expanse. Tick. Tock. Like a metronome, my excited eyes dart left and right. Giant ocean waves, saluting like soldiers, stand frozen, splashed up like cliffs. They dwarf me from high up above. Each poses rigid, yet fluid, threatening tenuously to come crashing in. Still-life sea foam floats up against them, motionless like frothy, frozen figurines, flirting, dancing; partnering with the waves in their elegant stance. And ever so gently, a still fresh, warm breeze, teases gently to tickle life back into this curious tropical scene. At the center of it all, a massive crystal-clear, Caribbean-sea-colored, inlet, beneath its surface at an unfathomable depth reflects the sun, sky and stratosphere. More than the other in cobalt blue, these waters, I am certain, are too deep and vast for me to dive in. But they’re warm, temperate and inviting, so I dare myself to splash about on the sculpted, refreshing shores.

I raise my left foot to tip my toes in. Instantly, marionetted, I am yanked up, draped up, dragged up from above, suspended in time; floating, just grazing, never breaking, the aquamarine still. The uproarious laughter of an old Latin man surges up around me. I can’t see him but sense deeply, his knowing, the taunting in his sound. I’m horrified of being dunked into the gaping depths beneath my dangling feet. Oh horror, I’m faced again with the dilemma of sink or swim. But as instantly, as jarringly, I am slingshot back onto shore and plopped into a heap with others, propped up against the hall’s exterior tropical pink. They rest peacefully in the hot sun, dozing lazily on a hazy tropical afternoon as though shaded under a tree. This sun-drenched, sunbaked, still life beach, grips me frozen in time.

The orchestra of salsa, foods, cheers and smiles comes flooding back into my mind again. My heart stomps out a percussive rhythm, tick, tick, tick, tock, tick, tick, tock. At the corner of my eye, colorful people collect at a coral pink beach bar to enliven the scene. My friends are among them. But none can be seen? The crowd’s carved gyrations undulate motionless, reaching up to the pristine tropical sky – intoxicatingly frozen in time.

The vast aquamarine mirror echoes fresh promise as a new tropical rhythm fades in from yet another distant beach beyond…frozen in time.

I awake.

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~ Len D. Henry

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