Life at the edge of shadows

We reached the beach late at night. The plan had been to be somewhere else, but nothing had gone according to plan all day. Finally, we landed up there, the most convenient spot, and went right in.

The strip of beach was lit, in all senses of the word. Fluorescent lights throbbed and pulsed like one big neon kaleidoscope, and the noise from the scrambled music hung like layers of thick, heavy fog in the air. I finally sat down in front of one of the countless shacks-turned-discos, which was packed to the rafters. Wasn’t hard to see why – the DJ was playing all the happening songs, both currently and of the past generations, and he seemed to have a much better playlist put together than the discos on either side.

The excesses flowed freely. Everything costed a ton, but nobody seemed to care. Everyone was here to have a good time, and were ready to pay whatever they had, and more. Regardless of how much it cost, though, they made sure to get the most out of their buck. People ate, people drank, people smoked, people danced. Some actually knew what they were doing, but most of it was just flailing of arms and legs. There were a couple of guys writhing on the ground, being videotaped by who I assumed (and hoped) were their friends, doing their version of dancing. Everyone had come to have a good time, and everyone was going to make sure they had their money’s worth.

Even as the bodies shimmied and gyrated in the brilliance of the flashing neon lights, there sat a woman in the shadows, looking out into the vast sea, her three children asleep next to her. The children lay curled up in the sand, undisturbed by the booming music playing just a few meters away from them. I wondered how much of it was daily routine for them – these women who stayed up late into the night, selling fluorescent bracelets and weaving dreamcatchers, trying to make ends meet, watching people dive into and wallow in the overabundance that life had been kind enough to give them.

Would they feel angry, if they had the energy to? Would they pity their own plight, if they had the time to? I’m not quite sure. Just wondering about it made me feel like I was somehow being condescending, because I had the privilege to consider these things. All I saw on their faces, was a lack of time and energy – their current life took so much of both that it didn’t seem like they had the time to lift their heads and look around. They didn’t look like they cared about the hundreds of people throwing their money and their time into the booze, the food, and the vertical sex that was their dancing. They had more pressing matters to worry about.

A few hundred meters away, away from the blaring music and the jarring lights was the edge of the beach. The waves rolled in and out rhythmically, apathetic to the chaos on the shore. The moon light shone down on the water, and I looked up at the sky to see the stars. It was a bit disappointing, though – the pollution of light from the nightlife of the beach obscured the beauty of the cloudless, clear sky. I wondered how it would’ve been if I’d been sitting on a quieter, sparsely populated beach – a completely different beach from this one. I wondered how beautiful the sky would’ve been, overlooking the inky black waters and the white edged waves.

I love my quiet as much as I love a good party – it honestly depends on my mood, like a lot of things. At that moment, I wanted to sit and sip on something good, and stare at the waves, tuning out all conscious thought as my entire being focused on the in and out movement of the water. I got stuck with a raucous bunch, with a really bitter tasting beer, but I still tuned them out, staring out at the sea as much as possible.

And I didn’t want to party, for many reasons. I wasn’t comfortable with the crowd there, I was really tired at the end of the day, and I was enjoying observing people around me a lot more than I was joining the multitude of bodies bopping to the beat.

And, quite honestly, after watching those kids sleep, and watching their mothers look on towards the light, I didn’t feel like joining the crowd. My privilege to sit there and sip on pungent beer felt quite criminal at that moment. The usual excess felt even more excessive, and disgust and hypocrisy left a biting taste in my mouth, like a large, bitter pill that was hard to swallow.

When the party died, and the sun rose again, bringing with it bitingly cold winds, would any of it matter? When the crowds trudged away, leaving behind them a trashed beach in their wake, would they remember seeing those sleeping children at the side of the shacks? Would it make a difference to them where they got the glow-in-the-dark bands on their wrists from? If it did, that’s just my wishful thinking. Life’s routine had a way of resetting itself, and everything would repeat all over again.

But, at the end, the sun would rise, and bring with it, a new day, a new change, a new hope. And, in this novelty, I hoped, there would be enough for all of us to survive, to thrive.

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