On Sunday, I strolled to several beaches along the way to the resort neighborhood of Nervi. At first, I was unsure if they were private, how things worked, and if I was allowed to be there. But eventually I figured it out. They are mostly free to use; you pay for chairs, umbrellas, bars, etc. A private beach will be clearly marked. Anyways, more about Sunday’s first dip at another time.
Despite my best intentions, the week slipped away and I did not make it to the beach again after work. Today was humid and slightly stressful, so when I came home, I slipped into a bikini and updated my twitter status. Before I made it out the door, the thunderstorms rolled in. At 6:30, the rumbling had stopped and the rain reduced to a slight mist. In less time than it took me to get to Metro North in Woodlawn, I could be in the Mediterranean. I had to go.
I arrived at my closest beach to find it was completely empty, periwinkle gray waves crashing on the smooth pebbles. “Don’t swim alone,” I heard my mother’s voice calling to me. But the sea beckoned, and I went in “Just for a dip.” There were people strolling about under the dark skies: a man tying up umbrellas in his bar, a woman with her dog, a hotel guest peering out the balcony. I wasn’t totally alone . . . But for me, on this day, the beach and sea were mine. Has this ever happened to me in America? I couldn’t recall a time on our jam-packed beaches.
I slipped off my blue patent birkenstocks and gingerly walked over the stones, feeling like I was at a German spa, wading through the “pressure point” pools. Then a few steps into the rocky water and it drops off immediately to the great, deep blue. I like that. I swam out towards the open water without my goggles. I was just going for a dip, so I just grabbed a towel, no bag or anything. Was there a giant rock beneath me? Were these waves safe? Would I be caught in a fishing line or bang my toe against a sunken barge? I always worry when swimming in open water, but it was absolutely delightful. Clean, clear, and relaxing.
Suddenly, the day drifted away as the ebb and flow of the sea soothed my soul like a day at the spa. Soon I noticed a man snorkeling at the beach next to me, along the reef. Then another man came down for his swim. Storm clouds gathered again on the mountains just behind Genoa. Knowing that lightening can strike without warning, I decided not to push my luck and eventually left the sea after 20 minutes of “above water” crawl [lifeguard save style] mixed with backstroke.
As I dried off, I watched the old, fit man enter the water, hands on hips, gazing out to the sea — beautiful in any weather. After 5 minutes of stretching and anticipation, he plunged beneath the waves and breastroked out, far out, beyond the buoys. Climbing the stairs back to the main road, I kept turning back to watch the man, afraid of being creepy but unable to stop. I was so curious to see how things were done here, to learn. How far would he go? What is ok? Acceptable?
I plan to come often. Who is this man? Who is the lady with the dog? Eventually, they will recognize me. Slowly but surely, my Italian will improve. One day, I just may talk to them. But for now, I am still a stranger, relishing my enigmatic presence as I soggily creep back up my hill.