The word “burning” normally brings about visions of fire, of heat and of light. Of licking flames, flickering tongues momentarily illuminating a warm brick hearth or charring wood until a bed of glowing embers is born beneath. The word “burning” does not normally haunt the same descriptions as do “dark” and “wet”.
But if ever there was a place for exceptions, the south of France would be it.
The coast of Antibes, a small seaside town that retains the sleepy Provencal visage its neighbors Nice and Cannes have lost to the glitz and glam of the French Riviera, was deserted but for my lone silhouette, barely visible against the sand in the moonlight. Stiff gusts of salty October air whipped tendrils of hair from my face, and rustled through the palms behind me. And in front of me, the waves burned.
The dark waters of the Mediterranean were alight with captivation, with entrancement. Fiery; they set every particle of my being ablaze with exhilaration, catching me in an under-toe that pulled me further and further out with every crashing crest, dragging me into an overwhelming sense of being acutely alive.
Immense rollers moved with an alluring, captivating rhythm for as far as I could see in the darkness, silver moonlight pirouetting a wild ballet across their curls.
Whitecaps roared to shore, pounding the beach before retreating back to their own domain, leaving grains of sand shivering with the impact. The violence of the surf was seductive, its danger a siren’s call begging me to join its frenzied dance.
But the sea held me captive, holding me still before its vastness, spellbound by its might.
My shoes had long since come off and my feet buried themselves more securely into the sand, stationing themselves firmly in the earth, as if to head off my reckless heart, as if they knew it would rather be beating amidst those waves than nearly anywhere else. I satisfied myself with watching, mesmerized, not bothering to wipe the constant spray from my cheeks.
Far from my home on the opposite end of a different ocean, I’d never felt smaller than at this moment, just beyond the reach of the Mediterranean’s waves. I’d never been so intensely aware of the thousands of miles separating me from the place I grew up in the United States, or how many fewer miles there were between myself and places I’d always considered to be so distant they were hardly even real-Africa was just across the waters my eyes refused to tear themselves away from; perhaps holding some innate fear that in so magical a place, I had become apart of those exotic backgrounds I’d always imagined, a thread woven into those colorful tapestries that were never quite solid, never quite real. But if I was woven in, the stitch was not a neat one. There would be no simple retracing of a shuttle’s motion over a loom, no untangling knots that had been this firmly tied. My breath was in time with the waves falling against the sand, and with every inhale and exhale; I felt the sea burn a searing path ever deeper across my blazing heart.
About the Author: Katherine Miller is 20 years old, and studies at Marist College. She is currently having the time of her life studying abroad in Antibes, France, eating an absurd number of croissants, and watching the waves wash up against the shore of the beautiful Côte d’Azur.