I used to drive down to this beach. There was one week, in winter, when my parents had gone away somewhere, and I would come down after breakfast to take the dog for a walk. I drove the big Ford pickup so that the dog could roll around in seaweed and shit and wouldn’t stink up the inside of my car. I was 16 and obsessed with visiting England; I was looking at colleges and the only thing I really cared about was whether or not they had a study abroad program there. So I would walk along the shoreline, for half a mile or so, and then I would call the dog and we would walk back, and all the while I was daydreaming about England. Once I came back to the truck and realized I’d left the headlights on. There was nobody else around, and the dog was covered in the stench of dead fish, and I thought, great, my parents leave me alone for a week and this is what happens, but I got lucky: the truck started, and off I drove. (The college I ended up at didn’t have a study abroad program in England, but I ended up living there anyway.)
Here’s a complicated fact of time and math: at a certain point, I will have lived elsewhere for longer than I ever lived here, but here will nevertheless always be the place I grew up.
Javiar Marias writes:
“Here in Oxford, the one really decisive factor is […] that there’s no one here who knew me as a young man or as a child. That’s what really troubles me, leaving the world behind and having no previous existence in this world, there being no witness here to my continuity, to the fact that I haven’t always swum in this water.”
At a certain point, though, if you stay somewhere, this ceases to be true. Even if no one here knew you when you were a child, people here did know you when you were young, or younger. After a number of years it is no longer possible to claim immunity from the banality and embarrassment of belonging, of not only remembering but also of being remembered. I haven’t always swum in this water, but I’ve swum in this water for awhile now, this water and I are well acquainted.
This water and I really are well acquainted, even if I’m just a visitor now. Yesterday we drove down to this beach and I went for a swim, in a wetsuit that was too big and let all the water in. I’m used to swimming in Oxford, in a heated indoor pool, with lanes and goggles and other bodies. Still, it was pretty nice when we looked up and saw dolphins fishing; they were maybe 20 meters away. We got out of the water and the dolphins came in, as close to the shore as we’d been, then even closer. There were a few other people standing up on the cliffs; we were all saying, “I’ve never seen them come this close!” and “They’re so fast!”, watching as they flitted up and down the coast.
When a dog just starts following you around in the middle of nowhere
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