The waves crashed on the shore in quick succession and she sat within the divots of the sand, on the thousands of warm crushed rocks that were soft and harsh at the same time. She took to picking up little pinches of grains and rolling them between her thumb and index finger. These little things, these
almost-round things were what they called sand, what she called “sand.” What everyone understood as sand. These tiny pebbles that were once big rocks, now collectively known as sand.
She had been to more gentle beaches before, where the waves came in leisurely, as though they were in no hurry to find the shore and then melt into the larger form of water that had birthed their shape. But this was not a lazy sea. The waves came and came and came, causing a roar that was so loud it ended up fading into the background, a deep rumble that never settled down. It almost had a mechanical feel, like an industry that never shut off the lights and slowed the gears. It was constant. Churning. Relentless. It was slightly unsettling, but then like all things, its strangeness faded as she grew used to its ways.
The only thing she missed was the birds. The roar of the water drowned out their calls, if there were any flying in the sky above. But she would never know.
She could feel the sunlight, it warmed the exposed skin of her legs and arms and it warmed the grains of sand that her fingers rolled, but she could not see the light. The world was dark, or so others would say. The world was the only way she had ever known it and something can only be called “dark” if there is a comparison to “light.”
She did not know what light was, she had never seen colors or the shape of the waves. Everything for her was a collision of sound and texture and smell. She knew her way around the city because of the particular smells that lingered near certain intersections, by the constants that did not change, year after year. To get to the ocean from her house, she needed to make a left by the smell of the bakery and then another left were it always smelled like old meat. When she reached the bricks of the building on the corner, she knew she just needed to cross the street and soon she would hear the crashing waves.
“Jen!” her sister came running up, she could feel the coldness of the ocean radiating off her skin.
“Jen, you should really go out there and feel the water, it’s so refreshing. The waves are just so beautiful.”
“I will in a little bit, now I’m just feeling it all.”
“It’s just so pretty here.” She could feel her sister smiling and could hear the lightness in her voice.
It was something her sister said often. Places were “pretty and beautiful” and the description stopped there. After many years, Jen did not offer her thoughts, she knew it was part of the sight culture, things “were” something. Places and people were simple words: pretty, mean, ugly, vivid, beautiful. They were supposed to convey meaning but always lacked detail, and so they failed.
Her sister would look at the waves and declare them as “pretty.” But it meant nothing, not to the seeing or to the blind. It was a word that lacked emotion or description, for what was pretty? It was a judgement, an objective judgement that could not really be disputed or quantified, for it lacked anything real.
Jen had never seen a wave, but she felt it. It was not beautiful. For her, waves were the sound of a force she could not describe. They came over and over, relentless in their crawl towards land.
This place was more than a word, much more than a simple, flat word. It was her experience. It was the sun that felt warm on her skin. It was her longer breaths and the children shrieking in the distance. Places and people were never beautiful or ugly, they were described with a thousand words and scents and emotions, they were truly things that could not be seen.