The secret of the beach
A middle-aged man laden with anxiety came to the beach. The noise of the seaside was covered by the water sound. He buried his toes into the soft sand, and the cool feeling smoothed his folded brows. Stretching his numb neck, he caught sight of those men and women, old and young enjoying the picturesque seascape fully, as if they had born there beside the seashore. Hearing the scream of some teenage girls, a cloud of spray suddenly drowned his ankles. He leapt at once and smiled much at ease. Then he expected for another… I was that man in his middle age, who had an unbreakable bond with the sea.
According to my mother’s memory, she was so scared by my extremely dark skin that she didn’t touch me for 4 days after giving birth to me. Such kind of dark skin was so rare in my hometown MinNan that I had had no idea about which color of the clothes was suited to me until Xiamen University recruited African students. Obviously, I was the offspring of fishermen, who sank into the water and were exposed to the scorching sun year in, year out. My father came from a remote fishing village of Donghai, where people made their living as a fisherman from generation to generation. Sometimes they became pirates, and the village was once the den of the pirates and even the National Revolutionary Army’s soldiers, for its well-concealed position.
It was a raining night, my father stole out to the beach with another 6 brave youngsters where the National Revolutionary Army assembled, leaving to Taiwan. Hardly had he left off the shore when he heard the crying of his mother. My father had no choice but to get off, watching the boat sailing into the distance.
As a kid, I just learnt to eat the clams with a bamboo basket in my arm. My grandma told me now and then if she hadn’t recalled my father back, I would not exist now. Her words was engraved on my mind so deeply that once I smelt the scent of the sea breeze, a primal and vast sea would emerge in my mind──like the boundless North Sea described in the Wandering in Absolute Freedom by Zhuangzi──Distantly on the foggy surface of the ocean, a little pair of black wings was vaguely lightened by lightning. Clouds were swept to a far distance, as the horizon was in the sky. The far-flung offing was serene in the darkness of night, while depressed thunder sound could be heard at the near place. The earth was shaking when the energy of ocean was about to burst out. Huge waves rushed to the shore, roaring alone. After the first huge wave smashed a reef into pieces, the second wave came over to a petite woman in black——for many times I could even heard them shouting. It became clearer when it’s approaching me, thus I had reason to believe there was a tacit understanding between me and the ocean by nature.
As the demand of my grandma, my father allowed me to go back to hometown for summer and winter vacations when I was in primary school. Therefore I got chances of fooling around for at least two months every year. So far I had owed all my badly behaved personality to the wonderful time that I spent on the mountain and sea. There grew the free thoughts of mine. At that time I was a child who talked to himself, deluding himself with crazy stories of those fragmented things floating on the water. I even drew at random on the beach to illustrate the stories I made up, in order to prove my intelligence.
At the time it taught me how to make up a world of illusion, the beach also led me to the mystery of the night and the secret of adults. Except for catching crabs, roasting peanuts and pulling out the asparagus, they also took me to “watch the moon girl”every time when the moon was full. According to my grandma’s words, “the moon girl”was the moon, but my cousins only stared into the distant Baiyu Pool, hiding in the shelter belt quietly, instead of enjoying the moon. Young as I was, I could recall the voice of girls and water. Covered with moonlight, their bodies were shining, just like naughty white fish. At that time the moon was so bright that its light was flowing from the sky and slashing the sea into two parts——which reminded me of Moses parting the Red Sea──with weird hush surrounding. That was the most brilliant scene I’d never seen, even in the books. From then on I started to keep watch to surrounding area, for I could learn things that books didn’t teach me.
After the senior middle school entrance exam, I came back to my hometown, with my cousin Zuochi, who majored in art. Being curious about his drawing, I went to the Aojiao Fishery, in Dongshan Island, “collecting folk things”with him. Sitting on the beach that hustle and bustle, I randomly draw on the paper as the way my cousin did, with a whiff of smelly jellyfishes that were exposed to the heavy sunshine. For so many years he insisted that it was the stink and the scorching sun that triggered my color blindness——the beach was pure yellow of straw, the sea was black with purple, some vermilion ships and white waves on it, thickets of olives wound the erotic floating clouds, towering into the dark green sky——a prime example of biasing against people who had a sequelae of retinal puncture——I remembered the stink indeed, for I had one of the grandest and most delicious banquet in my lifetime with it——six bowls of rice, three basins of squid, cabbage, and half Jin of sorghum, but all of them was just half of an appetite of a seaman!
However, the most unforgettable thing was the piercing shouting by many people which make me stand up, cup my belly and see, though I hadn’t finished my last mouthful of wine. Under the last rays of the setting sun, waves became golden clouds in the evening breeze. In the middle of beach and clouds, a lady of slight build, coated with sunlight was walking naked along the coastline leisurely, with several sea bird flying around, and her long hair torn by sea breeze… At that time I was a pure and simple teenager, and the harmonious integral scene of human and nature shocked me like lightning…Seamen shouted to her with laughter——her name was Wu Yuejiao, a mad woman from the adjacent village, who bared all, walking on the coastline when her family failed to take care of her——“This is nothing to me. I’ve seen a lot naked women. We have to draw them everyday in class.”Zuochi said, which made all those present green with envy.“It’s such a lucky job to draw. I want to major in it too.”I thought to myself.
My campus was right besides the beach. The vigor and liveliness of youth could never be diminished even on tender and warm beach. We could swim at any time, but we waited until the night, as we wanted to spend our endless youth on night. Sometimes we showed up near a reef naked, covering our private parts with cabbage leaves, smiled and asked glued couples to throw our pants to us. We buried bottles of leftover beer in the sand, and then dug them out, drink them up when girls were sitting on the area and surprised by us. Sometimes we dug a hole that was knee-deep, gave a grave expression when someone fell into it. If we fell in love with girls, we would take them to where only known by ourselves and“Facing the sea with flowers blossom”with them till curfew.
The beach near Xiamen University was not only the hotbed of lovers, but also the coastal defence line, where pillboxes and anti-aircraft gun hided in the shelter belt, therefore many lovers quarreled even fought with the guard on duty. There was a big conflict when I was a junior, which the whole class fought with the soldiers till the midnight. The reason of the soldiers was: you are so lucky as a college student at the same age of us, however you don’t work hard, foul around with girls, and even laugh at us. We soldiers have no gift of the gab. The only thing we know is to fight!
At the alumni party this year, the buddies who risked their lives for one another met again. It was a big wave that sent twenty three youngsters to the beach, and it was another that sent us to all over the world after four years… No wonder that we all felt astounded at the reunion, for the skinny young men had become potbellied middle-ages. Some of them were even old and feeble. The old dream and ambition’s were like leftovers, nothing but a dish to go with beer while reminiscing about the past. No one was willing to talk about their lives and experiences. They only thing they did was to show the best themselves to others. “Forget the boring things. I only feel good when drinking with my classmates of former times.”
So I had to speak to myself on the beach, just like what I did when being a child. I imagined their story with my ignorance——while the banquet was going on, and before our true color of life revealed by the next coming waves. As you know, we are all drifting on the water, and going with the tide really made us numb and dog-tired. It was not before long that we were the stars on the beach, while being content we hadn’t noticed that the ebb would rise soon, and maybe the circulating tide and the silent sea was the master of the beach.
I love the story of “QuShuiLiuShang”(Drink water from a winding canal with one wine cup floating on it so as to wash away ominousness), so I’ve dreamed about sitting on the bank, absorbing the essence of nature and human being, creating some amazing poems when the wine cup floats in front of me, and then drinking them up… Now recollecting all this, I realize that life is a river flowing ceaselessly, and you’re going to have your own chances no matter how much you’ve prepared. The floating wine cup is our good karma, which needs you to wait for it, for it is always late; it fades away swiftly when you’re puffed up with pride, only lives in your prime memory, and lets you expect for it in vain. The upside is, most of the people don’t know the existence of it. They live quietly, letting things come and go and rot away, just like the drifting bodies and things on the beach. Let them die in the silence. Let them give their bodies back to the nature, going far away with the tide and being buried into the sand… This simple truth has been conveyed by my late friend, who wrote a brief poem in his 32, which was about the mess of time.
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