The following is an excerpt from an untitled, in-process work of fiction. Hope you enjoy!
Do we love the ocean so much because it’s our primordial home? It’s possible that the roots of our deepest psyche go back that deep, to the day when one of our earliest ancestors crawled out from the abyss onto dry land. I’ve always felt connected to the ocean in much the same way I’ve always felt connected to the stars, and perhaps for much the same reason. It’s crazy, though, isn’t it? The ocean is a source of endless mystery and beauty, while simultaneously being unflinchingly savage and unapologetically terrifying. But in a paradoxical way, it’s always felt like home.
My parents used to take us down to Wildwood for two weeks every summer. Some of my happiest childhood memories were spent riding waves, and catching clams and horseshoe crabs. I would always get hot and sweaty walking down the beach, carrying umbrellas, chairs, and a bucket of toys. I’d make myself wait until I just couldn’t stand the excitement, or the heat, for a minute longer. I would run with abandon and freedom, like I was making a break for the prison gate—that is, until that water got up to my knees or so. It didn’t matter that it was July, that water was always freezing. I was determined, though. It would take concentration and sheer determination to make it to my waist. And then more to get to my chest, and finally I was up to my neck, and strangely warm. A piece of seaweed would brush my leg and make me shiver—a gentle reminder that I could never really be sure what lurked beneath the surface.
I’d swim out far enough where I couldn’t walk. It was like being in outer space—another set of elements altogether, yet intimately connected. I’d just bob up and down, basking in the glory of what must be the collision of the heavens and the earth. I would just let the tide direct me—wouldn’t fight it, wouldn’t try to change its direction. How could I?—I was just a kid. Which makes me chuckle. I would inevitably be pushed and pulled so far—and so gently—that the lifeguard would blow his whistle. I would dutifully swim back in ten yards or so. Was I any safer there? I doubt it, but it was enough to appease the eighteen year old high school graduate on an authority trip. He probably ended up pouring concrete for a living—not that there’s any shame in that.
What was I doing out there all day? It wasn’t just relaxation—it was something more spiritual, although I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. Even as a little boy it felt like reconnecting to the source. For those two weeks a year, I could reconnect to my life source, and just have to hope it would give me enough charge to last the rest of the year. Then when school started, at Halloween and Christmas, and through the snowfalls and thaws, I was like an exile away from my home, longing for communion with the deep beyond.
And all this was even before I started smoking pot.
I sat on the hood of the car and dried off. I watched families arrive—children making a break for the sea before their parents even had the umbrella up. I listened to the rhythmic pulse of the surf and the wind blowing through palm trees. I tried to take it all in and just let it be...