issue 05: good night
nightwatch as moon
If you want a peaceful beach, go after the sun has set. That’s when I’m there. I have a special relationship with the beach—the tides, its shoreline. An irresistible urge draws us together. I’m there every night. And every night I watch.
Whether they know it or not, people who come to the beach after nightfall are seeking something: an adventure, a sign, closure. Whatever it may be, they're pulled towards the shore at twilight the same way its waters are pulled towards me. I remember many nights, and many people leaving footprints in the sand when they should have been asleep.
I will tell you one of my favourite memories.
It was a Sunday night on a beach in south Texas—as far south as you can imagine. The evening was quiet for the springtime, a brief reprieve between the weeks upon weeks of inebriated young scholars’ raucous partying. The neon lights that illuminated the tourist town full of kitschy nightclubs were out and the beach was pitch black. I was the solitary light still shining above it all. The skies were clear and I could see everything.
The only visitors to the beach that night were three women, so young that they were really no more than girls straddling the line between adolescence and womanhood. From the darkness of the dock, they stumbled through the weeds onto the sand loudly and joyously. The three of them were like spinning tops, frenetic energy bouncing them off of one another.
Abandoning their shoes, they waded ankle-deep into the dark water, laughing and splashing each other like children. Their gleeful noises mingled with the waves crashing in from the Gulf of Mexico, their revelry so naked it was as if they’d never been to the beach before. I watched as they carried on like this for a little while, their enthusiasm for the beach waning quickly but their energy remaining frenzied and seemingly limitless.
I see people come to the beach to express love all the time—day or night—in big obvious gestures made to be captured and shared publicly over and over again. But that night when I was watching from afar, without a single one saying it, in their unabashed delight to simply be together in that moment, I knew these young ladies were soulmates. And yet, I knew just as intrinsically that they’d never be together like this again.
Youth, much like their enthusiasm, is fleeting. I could tell they were coming untethered from one another—a tight-knit group inching apart to drift towards the edge of something unknown. For now their orbits align. But eventually, their radii will broaden, separating them from one another. Because each one of these girls is their own planet, singular and unique, tracing their own individual paths.
People this young who come to the beach seeking adventure, their nights sometimes end in catastrophe. I’ve watched many lives get swallowed by the ocean’s inky depths. But that night, I realised that little, imperceptible deaths happen here too.