June 24, 2010
The Sea Inside
It's funny. I didn't really plan on getting in the water that day. The sky went gray in patches soon after we got there. When I did decide to walk up and let it wash over my feet, it was freezing. The kind of cold that chills your bones, hurts your nipples and makes you wonder how folks have it in them to frolic in such frigid temperatures. I retreated back to the sand and there I stayed for quite some time. We talked about things the way we usually do; with an easy air of conversation. Then I felt a shift within. My mood began to match the sky. Bright still, but with bits of cloudiness moving in with purpose. The onset of an emotional storm was brewing. By then, I was lying on the beach alone. I watched as he walked out to the shoreline where the icy water seemed to only slightly take him by surprise as it wet the hem of his shorts. He bent down, selected what looked like a heavy stone the size of a lemon and hurled it over the ebb tide. I watched him take in the horizon and wondered what it all looked like through his eyes. Suddenly I felt the need to move. To wash the thoughts and chase the gray out. In an instant I was up and sprinting towards the water. I leapt in as though I had nothing. I leapt in as though I had everything. The cold wasn't so bad after all. It never is once you're in it. I let the water surround my goose-bumped skin. Wash over me in ways I didn't know I needed. Bring me back to life. And then it happened.
We saw the wave at the same time. A high wall of water; huge and daunting. It crashed into us in the most powerful way. A split second before it swirled us then swatted us like lowly creatures. Panic. My feet and arms were useless. It tumbled us both. Drew us in and spat us out harshly. It's the strangest sensation when water fills orifices where air belongs. You go deaf- save for the thick silence that only water in your ears can generate. You go blind- but can still make out fragments of life as you knew it before you were capsized by an angry riptide. You know not to open your mouth because your lungs...and its contents just became the most precious thing you have. The only thing you have. But you taste the salt all the same. All that matters is that moment.
When I stumbled out towards land, I felt small. As you should when you realize the ocean can swallow anything that dares comes near her mouth. I felt insignificant. But grateful when I realized that when it counted- he didn't let go of my arm. Not for a moment. Not until it was over and I was on terra firma. Not until I was safe. It occurred to me that- had I been out there with anyone else, they might have lost their grip. They might have let go even if they didn't want to. The tide was that strong and for a moment, I was that hopeless. But he never let go.