I recently completed a creative writing course through the Gotham Writers Workshop. The following short post is the updated draft of the third week’s assignment for Individuality. It is a rant piece on something I hate.
I hate sand. I have always hated sand. When I was a child, my mother would take my siblings and me to the beach at Breezy Point. Only in her late twenties, she would haul her five children out of Brooklyn in a station wagon full of towels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and beach toys. Once at Breezy Point she would first take me out to the beach, spread out a big blanket and place my three-year-old butt in the center. Only then would she go back and grab the rest of my siblings with one of her girlfriends schlepping the gear needed to keep five kids, all under the age of 7, entertained for a day at the beach. Mom would not worry about me wandering off my cotton island in the sand. I hated the feel of it burning my feet, on my skin and in my hair. I hated the taste of it in my mouth. Most kids bring pails and shovels to the beach, I brought a hand broom and fought my first battle in the sand.
I still hate the texture, the way it gets into everything, and never seems to go completely away. It collected in my boots, scratched my glasses and never really shook out of my desert camouflage uniform. It concealed explosives and absorbed blood, the stain from either only lasting a few hours before being covered. Giant storms of it would blow and envelope everything in its path. The sun could not completely penetrate the huge clouds rolling across the desert. Sand could steal the horizon and any sense of safety I had retained. The taste of it was always in my mouth, I breathed it in and coughed it up.
I hate that it took a body as quickly as a bullet took a life. I hate how it covered mass graves and weapons caches. Even when heavy equipment was brought in to move it, you knew it was only a matter of time before the sand would undo all the effort to displace it.
No amount of washing those uniforms seems to be able to get rid of all the sand. Even now, 14 years later, I can pull out the big plastic bags in which my combat uniforms are stored, and I will still find the powdery off-white substance that fuels my nightmares. It makes my skin crawl.
Everyone laughed at me and thought I was weird when I was three years old because I would go to such lengths to avoid contact with sand. Forty years later, I remembered what I knew as a very young boy. I have no use for sand.