Sun Beach

Sun Beach

A woman from the big city visits an old fishing village and reflects on what it would have been like to grow up there


Flash fiction


emilia (France)

Sun Beach

I stumbled, by chance, upon a small Italian town that goes by the name of San Benedetto del Tronto. They call it Ghost Town in the winter, and Sun Beach in the summer. It was once said that it resembled a famous American beach, although no one can recall exactly which one. So instead, they named their main square Central Park.

Anyhow, theirs is the longest beach on the Adriatic coast. It’s a straight beach, the kind with fine sand and not many imperfections. Barely a seashell in sight, never algae forgotten, and the waves always flowing in smooth, drawing their curves on the shore, and then retreating politely with a bow of the head and a tipping of the hat.

The only decoration to speak of is the product of human affairs and opportunity. Some 30 years ago, a group of experimental Germans, on the lookout for the next Ibiza, happened to vacation there. They were so enchanted with their season and the freshest seafood they ever had, that they began to spread the word, far and wide. Ever since, blocks of hotels, touristic amenities, neons, and plastic restaurants are continually erected on the coast; not in a way that makes aesthetic sense, but in a way that is practical, and allows everyone to share in the spoils.

At the top of the hill is a wonderful viewpoint, neighboring an old stone church, that one savors like Turkish delight. There, the eye can see the edges of the earth, and collect the entire city in one sweep. Evidently, it was not conceived to be seen from atop, this balding-man of a town, but the ocean looms over it, in the back, forgiving all of its irregularities.

The old San Benedettans - the ones that used to spend three straight days on the fishing boat and prepare the original fish soup-, now pester on about how it was better before, when the ocean was the riches, and one could make an honest living.

These days, on the weekends, the young ones meet in houses, to get smashed. It’s a clever trick they devised that gets their heads to spin so hard that, time after time, their usual bar is endowed with ever novel charms. Marijuana abounds too, and joints are rolled like long and lanky arms, easing minds into the pace of life, and producing cheerful melancholy.

They all know each other, even across generations. That is because the lineage is strong and still contained within the invisible walls of the city. Children grow up to become their parents after some backs and forth of rebellion, apology, imitation, and reconciliation. The young ones, at some time or other, all take up temp work as cashiers in overpriced apparel stores, or waiters, or vendors, such that the elderly know them, too. Together, they huddle through the great winters, and eagerly await the returning suns and swelters of summer, when the city can finally fulfill its purpose in one giant collective orgasm. Until then, they drive each other around in old cars to avoid the rain, which is still experienced, year after year, as an outrage.

Then, there are the occasional outcasts. The ones that try to stretch the limits of their existence, bending it to their own rules, and fighting to invent themselves a brand new role, because they didn’t like anything on the menu. They are the ones who long to escape. I immediately pictured them in the gut of an adventure, of an experience. And at first, I even wished that for them, very strongly. But that was only at first. It was not long before I discovered the great treasure, hidden beneath the silence of San Benedetto del Tronto.

When I walked into Ghost town, I wondered what one does in a town like this. I wondered about the economics of time and energy. The walls of the city were visible to me. Born and raised in a megalopolis, the problem of my daily existence and of those around me is how to find a place within the infinite. To survive in this infinite, we must gather, synthesize, smooth over the rough edges, so as to fit everything neatly theories, that are ever unconvincing. We must get to the point, abbreviate, and arrive there faster.

But in San Benedetto resides the very essence of humanity, and no theory is more convincing. In this town, the realest things happen. Each knows all, and their stories and their families. It is a place where success is shared, and everyone invests in the other, where a friend is a brother, and an acquaintance a cousin, where you grow up with your future doctor or accountant, and with them, you may simmer in the absolute juice of life.

Omniscience runs deep in the people’s veins, a consequence of the genetically transmitted gossip. In fact, all personal matters and affairs are, for lack of other diversions, looked into, dissected, turned over and over and over, and always submitted to public judgment. As a result, one’s brain can perform its most rigorous analyses. One can reach a better conclusion, become more erudite, become more fine about people, and who they are, and what they want.

I looked at them, so potent over each other’s lives. They were like benevolent Olympian Gods. And so, I imagined the unspeakable things that I would be capable of doing if I had friends like these, to defend and to protect. They would be everything, they would mean everything. And I thought of how I could not possibly grow apart from them, that I could not forget them as soon as we didn’t need each other anymore. Because we would always need each other, there.

I thought of all of this, and of how my friends in big cities are more like buoys you hang onto in the middle of the ocean, and if they drift too far off, you let them float away. And I thought of how important these buoys are because they allow you to survive, but of how none of them would ever make me into an Olympian Goddess. I thought of how there was nothing so strong as friends from a small town. By reaching beyond the walls, and into infinite freedom, we deprive ourselves of the intoxications of eternal proximity. For someone ever marveled and intrigued at the bonds; visible, unseen, and unspoken that weave people together, San Benedetto del Tronto is paradise.

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1



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