At 4:45pm I give up on work and take a tram to the sea. It’s Halloween but I’m in The Hague, not Hollywood, where this celebration would matter more. On the streets there’s not a single pair of bunny ears or a Dracula cape in sight, and truthfully I am glad. I like to give my sense of fun a holiday sometimes. Stop after stop I start despairing that it’s too late and by the time I get to the sea I’ll probably meet nothing but pitch-dark coast and the slosh and slur of the waves taunting me with their hidden grandeur.
I reach the shoreline at the tail end of sunset and it’s more unique than the infinitely Instagrammable golden hour. There’s something lovely about dwindling daylight in its own melancholy, temporal way. Oranges and gray-blues bleed out into darkness with the softness and fluidity of a watercolour stain. To my right there’s a giant pier housing a lit-up ferris wheel and some sort of electricity tower. I think of dingy English coastal towns and Dogman, that disturbing Italian film I watched the other week about a dog groomer who turns to crime in the shabby outskirts of Rome. It wasn’t perfect but the lead actor’s hangdog, trustful eyes have stayed with me ever after. Seaside fairs and structures seem tinged with sadness and menace. It must have something to do with the juxtaposition of big, timeless elements and manmade seasonal amusements. People ruin everything. Murders could happen and the water could wash bodies away.
In a matter of minutes the beach is dark and I walk under the wooden beams of the pier freaking myself out as I search for a beach bar. It had optimistic Yelp reviews that described a wonderful, relaxed vibe and so-so food. I can already picture a green-and-blue lit interior done up like a mermaid’s grotto, maybe some tinsel hanging from the ceiling to resemble seaweed, walls and pedestal tables encrusted in seashell mosaic. Lou Reed or Groove Armada plays softly from the speakers. The bartender will be a longhaired, tattooed young man or woman wearing bracelets from gap year travels and a rakish smile. The Mojito I order will be either too weak or too strong.
But when I reach the blue point on my Google map, there’s nothing but sand and scrap metal. The woman in the closest restaurant informs me it’s only open in summer. I feel foolish that it’s almost November. I order sea bass that comes with a soggy salad and loveless fries. This is the kind of meal befitting a latecomer. The proprietor of this restaurant has stringy hair like a stressed-out composer and paces the place with his hands folded behind his back, as if he wants to smack someone. The waitress is very nice, though. I drink two small lukewarm glasses of white wine and think about how fish never gives me a feeling of fullness. I pay up thinking if we never had to pay for unsatisfying meals out, most of us would be richer.
Outside the restaurant I turn toward a dirt path half-obscured by tall grass. It’s a dingy dirt walkway leading toward the murky moon and god-knows-where, god-knows-who, god-knows-what: probably a building site. Having been in a morbid sort of mood all evening I think I can hear the sea yawning, chomping on its own chops. I take a picture of the path on my phone and then I start to find my way back to the tram stop.