The Smell of Salt
by Monique Jeanty
When I was ten years old, I loved the smell of the ocean. There was something innocent about 1960 and going to the beach was an adventure. My noisy family became quiet and relaxed as we left the busyness of the city. There was something about the clean, balmy air that made you breathe deeply and forced you to enjoy the present moment. The air was incredibly pure and it made you feel that you were breathing something healthy and perfect. You could smell the salt for miles before seeing the water. I envied the people who got to smell that salty air every day.
As we drove closer to the ocean, the air seemed to carry healing energy and peace. Everyone forgot the hectic drama of the city, and we became still as we approached the ocean. The sun seemed to shine brighter, the clouds looked whiter, and the blueness of the ocean jumped out at you. But I will never forget the intensity of the clean, salty air.
Once we got out, all of the kids ran to sandy shore to collect shells. They were everywhere! We cleaned our shells in the ocean and we always collected enough to fill our jars. At the beach, our sandwiches tasted better and the Kool-Aid was sweeter! We ate quickly and ran back to the shore. On the ride back home, our nutmeg colored skin was caked with the salt from the ocean, and after taking a shower, we always slept deeply.
My family had gotten busy with the move to our new home. We got new jobs and went to new schools. It had been five years since we went to the beach. We thought it would always be there. Then one evening, as we watched the news, we learned that things had changed. “Hospital equipment and trash are washing up on the shores of Far Rockaway and Jones Beach.” We could not believe our eyes as we saw the garbage that had washed up on the on the shore. “It’s only been five years! How could all of that have happened in only five years?” “It can’t be!” We went to the beach to see for ourselves. As we drove up, we could not smell anything. The balmy air no longer felt healthy; and we were afraid to breathe deeply. In five, short years, the smell of salt had disappeared forever. The shells that used to decorate the shore had been replaced with trash. It seemed as if something precious had disappeared, never to return.