some fall in love. i shatter.

Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand (#44)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

“I think there’s an orgy going on in the backroom.”

When you’re on a first date and someone mentions an orgy, I think that most people presume that things are going well. Whether a come-on or sign of openness, it usually indicates that things are trending positively. I was smart enough to realize that Rhonda was simply making small talk, seeking ways to get me to stop paying more attention to my beer than to her.

“What makes you think that?” I looked up and asked in concession.

“Well,” she sat up a little straighter and smiled a little wider, “I’ve been overhearing bits of other people’s conversations and keeping an eye on the goings on around here.” I didn’t think she meant this to indicate that I was so disconnected that she needed to seek entertainment elsewhere while on our date but I still took it that way. “And I haven’t heard the word ‘orgy,’ exactly, but people keep hinting at something wild in the backroom and I’ve definitely heard the word ‘sex’ at least seven times.”

“Seven is a lot.” Even I couldn’t tell if I was being sarcastic or not. If there really was an orgy in the back of the bar, that would be amazingly odd, but could there really be? I mean, bars are pretty filthy places when you get down to it; why wouldn’t you just have it at someone’s loft? Somebody participating in the orgy needs to live in a loft, it’s a given.

“Seven is a lot, P. And then once I started hearing these things, I started to notice people in here with mussed hair – not mussed on purpose where you look closer and it’s more quaffed; not the mussed that looks too good to be legitimately mussed. I’m talking about the dry and frazzled look, guys with hair that’s been sweaty and dried without primping, girls with knots and tangles. It’s easier to see on the girls. Look, over there, the blond in the red dress.” I looked behind me through the crowd of eager twenty-somethings hungry for meaning and movement in a downtrodden bar and there she was. Her hair did in fact have tangles and an overall unkempt look, not falling in line with the dress she wore.

“You see her?”

“You’re right, something’s definitely off.” Scanning the crowd, it became obvious that the blonde wasn’t the only one. Too many people had hair at odd angles, clothes with balled-up wrinkles, half-untucked shirts, makeup smeared. The bar was crowded, the potential orgiers were definitely in the minority but they distinctly stood out. At least a dozen of them were milling around and a half-dozen that may have been part of their crowd but may have just been going for that post-orgy look.

“So,” Rhonda gave me the smile and raised eyebrows that made me think she had been making small talk along with indicating that things were going well, “should we go check it out?” She downed the remaining half of her vodka tonic and slipped down from her barstool.

“Uh…” I looked back down at my beer but there were no excuses drowning inside. “I’m not sure I really want to know about a bar orgy.” She grabbed me by the wrist and stood my beer on the bar.

“Come on, P. I’m not saying we have to jump in, I just want to see if it’s really happening.” Her fingers still wrapped around my wrist, she cut a winding path through the bar, past supposed orgiers and non-orgiers alike. I wanted to suggest that we could just ask one of our mussed friends but Rhonda was determined.

Dozens of people filled the narrow floor of the bar. Whatever maximum occupancy the fire code allowed in that dingy, dark wooded haven of modern rock, hair metal, and misdirected dreams, that number had been surpassed. None of those future hopefuls would slow Rhonda down. She had chosen the bar for our date and she knew exactly where she was going.

We passed the end of the bar, passed the jukebox on the wall, and turned into a little hallway with the bathrooms on one side and the backroom on the other. A large bouncer in a fuchsia tracksuit, white headband, and Ray-Bans stood in front of said backroom. His body blocked most of the windowed double doors. I hoped he’d be on my side but guys like that usually aren’t. Rhonda glanced back at me, a grin across her face; she too hoped the bouncer would be on her side.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but is there an orgy going on back there?” Her 5”4’ frame, which didn’t seem that small standing next to me, was dwarfed by the purple-clad giant. His head slowly swiveled and pivoted downward to catch Rhonda’s face. Then he looked at me. Then he looked at Rhonda again. His body didn’t move from its arms-folded defensive stance the entire time. Almost imperceptibly, the bouncer nodded. “I knew it!” she shouted. With a palm, the bouncer signaled for her to quiet down.

She turned and whispered to me, “I knew it. Should we try to get in?” I feel I should state here that I’m not a prude. I’m into sex as much as the next guy and sure, I’m into a little experimentation here and there, why not? And while it’s not at the top of the list of things I’d like to do, I haven’t necessarily ruled out any orgies. I guess I’m just not sure my brain could handle the insecurity and competitiveness. But an orgy in the back room of a not particularly clean bar?

“I don’t think so, Rhonda. It can’t be very sanitary, can it?”

“You’re worried about what the room’s like?” I can’t say for sure if I meant the room or the whole situation. “There’s so much sex going on in there, who cares what the room’s like? Look, I’m going to try to get in; if you don’t want to come, that’s your loss.” She said it so matter of fact, like, ‘I’m going to eat this last slice of pizza.’ She was waiting for a response.

“Were we going to have sex tonight?”

“P, I love sex so much!” She clenched her fists and shook them close to her body, like a joyous child getting just the right toy for Christmas. That comparison solidified my decision to not enter into the orgy. “Yeah, we were going to have sex tonight. I don’t fuck around with this two-date rule; if I like a guy, we hit it. But this orgy,” she gestured towards the bouncer, whom I imagined had overheard a lot of strange conversations, “is a game changer. So you in or you out?” She practically hopped from foot to foot.

“I’m out. I’m sorry but I just can’t, not in there. I had a good time with you though.”

“Yeah, me too. Call me, okay?” She didn’t wait for an answer. She was already talking to the bouncer who pushed the door open for her while his body blocked the view. Rhonda’s arm was already out of her shirt as she passed through the doorway. The bouncer gave me a look.

“Usually the other way around,” he said. “Usually the guys want in and the girlfriends don’t.”

“She’s not my girlfriend.” I gave him a shrug and walked out the bar. It was nearly midnight. I walked to a much quieter bar down the block where I had another beer. I never called Rhonda after that. She never called me either.

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Ghosts Of A Recollection (#43)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

It would have been unfair to say the beach was ugly because it was beige and yet, as he stood on the thin and tattered wooden walkway separating the beach from the street, he couldn’t help but blame the visual malaise on the particular beigeness of that particular sand. All sand is basically beige, he thought, but there should be radiance, hopefulness, promises of joy, recollections of memories. The sand should be like the best doorman, the red carpet, the welcoming committee ready to impart kindness and warmth. But this sand appeared to be infused with nothing but grayness. An entire gray scale in every grain of sand.

 

He swept his vision along the length of the beach. A landscape of sand dunes blown into lumpy existence by the hot breeze that blew through the November afternoon. The Gulf of Mexico retained a measure of beauty, the sometimes deep blue and sometimes emerald water shimmering in the spotlights of sun that broke through the cloud cover. But to reach that water, first the great lumps of sad sand, the tendrils of green shrubbery that struggled to grow through the graininess, the faded red and white remnants of picket fences that used to cordon off portions of the beach. A wasteland landscape; not another individual had bothered to wander outside.

 

A glance backward and his eyes fe

 

“Hey!

 

ll upon his father’s new vacation home on Sandy Boulevard; a tired old building of weathered whi

 

“Hey! I’m talking to you, asshole. Just because you think you control me doesn’t mean you can ignore me!”

 

Uncertain of what he was hearing, the Writer slipped his fingers off the keyboard, gazing at the backlit laptop screen and then looking towards the closed window of his 5th floor apartment. Someone on the street?

 

“Not over there, pal. Back down here.” His eyes drifted back toward the laptop screen where his story sat incomplete. The cursor blinked where he’d left it. “I know what you’re doing, Writer. Just because you haven’t written it all out yet doesn’t mean that you haven’t already transferred your thoughts and intentions into the work. Don’t think I don’t know what you have in mind.”

 

“Oh yeah? What do you think I intend to do?” Why am I having this imaginary conversation with the Character, he wondered. Then he realized he’d spoken the words aloud to the computer.

 

“I know that you’re planning to kill me. As a metaphor. To make a point about love.”

 

“That’s absurd!”

 

“Is it really?” The Writer paused before speaking again. What the Character had said was true; he’d responded as he had simply as knee-jerk reaction.

 

“Well, I’ve thought about the possi –”

 

“Screw your sense of possibility, you have the entire thing mapped out already. You send me into the water, unafraid of the waves, unaware of the rip current, and then you beat me down with the waves, sending me unknowingly into the current in search of calmer waters.” He’s in my head, the Writer thought. Of course he’s in my head, he’s born of my head, he’s nothing but my head. “And then the current pulls me out, I’m too panicked and tired to think of a sensible escape, and I eventually give myself over to the idea of drowning. How fucking romantic.”

 

“It’s not meant to be about the romantic aspects of love, it’s about the overwhelming force of it. The way that it comes up and hits you like a tidal wave, hits you in a way that you had no expectation of, overwhelms you.”

 

“Yeah, I can see the way that it’s going to overwhelm me. And I can follow your logic a little bit, I’m deep in your head enough to follow that, but why the current? Why do I need to die for this? Don’t you make your point well enough otherwise?”

 

“Your death is the second metaphor –”

 

“I know my death is the second goddamn metaphor! But why? Why do you need a second fucking metaphor at my expense? What’s wrong with just wringing out the overwhelming nature of love in the first go-round? Why should I die for this?”

 

“Because it’s about the way that we succumb to love.”

 

“And the submission in the waves isn’t enough?”

 

“The waves are the unanticipated force and impact of love. You escape from the waves. That’s not submission, that’s you fighting against the force of love, against the ways that it pushes you around, bends you to it’s will, tries to make of you something that you’re not.”

 

“An anomaly. Unexpected.”

 

“Exactly!”

 

“Don’t get so excited just because I follow a part of your logic. That’s only the first part. I still don’t comprehend the need to kill me. Shouldn’t the strength of love be enough to carry your story?”

 

“A lesser story, sure, but I’m trying to say something about love’s unexpected thrust and how a person then responds.”

 

“A person could respond two ways, you know. A person – who for the sake of personalizing things let’s just refer to as myself – could not give over to love, not succumb, and instead fight back.”

 

“But that’s not the story I’m writing. I’ve had this for a long time. I want to have a situation where the essence of succumbing is played out and the immensity of it is given description.”

 

“Absurd.”

 

“It’s not absurd. To fall in love, to give oneself over to another person, is to succumb in certain ways. I’m not saying that drowning is the best metaphor but it does visually convey this idea of sublimating the self, of giving over, of letting the other person wash over you and entering into a different world.”

 

“That’s such a flawed metaphor. Nobody gives himself over completely. Nobody wants to, nobody would; it’s simply too much. We all retain pieces if not most of ourselves when we enter into relationships.”

 

“I know, I know, and I said it’s not perfect, but it’s making a point. You’re against this idea of complete sublimation, and I’m not saying that I’m for it, but so many people seem to take the stance of remaining fiercely independent and not giving anything over. This is a fierce example but it shows how one man can be so unprepared for love, and then caught off guard, swept off his feet, and even beaten down by it. He flees it, thinks he can find a safe ground away from it, only to find himself caught up in the pull. And it’s not that it saps his will, but it gradually insinuates itself into his body, into his mind, and into his emotions. He’s panicky but eventually he slows down, looks around, and realizes that he’s in love. At that point, a peaceful abandon comes over him. So it’s not exactly sublimation to an unseen person as much as it is the idea of realizing that love has taken hold and that he’s no longer afraid of it or of what it means.”

 

The Character had taken seat on a naked root while the Writer gave his little speech. As the words trailed off, he stood and began walking towards the water, leaving his towel, keys, and phone behind. He still wore the sunglasses and the sun worked with vigor to burn away the clouds.

 

“I guess,” he began before coughing on the sand that blew into his face. He glanced skyward, where he presumed the Writer to be, and scowled. “I guess you have a point. Thing is, I’m not in love. And while I admitted that you may have a point, it means little to me in the abstract, you understand? Dying for love when there isn’t in fact any love seems a hollow fate.”

 

“But you’re just a character I’ve created.” Again, the skyward scowl.

 

“Correct that you created me but incorrect that I’m just a character. You brought me to life. You gave me a family, a bit of background, an emotional motivation. You gave the hints and the edges of a life beyond this and with that comes certain hopes and dreams. Just because you haven’t spilled them onto the page for everyone to see doesn’t mean that they’re not there. Details aren’t a necessity for the essence, especially if you consider yourself any good, which I don’t know. Our little relationship here is fairly new. I don’t even know your name.”

 

“I don’t know yours either.”

 

“Well maybe you’re not that good then.”

 

“Maybe the name isn’t important. Maybe it’s something to do with universality.”

 

“Lot of maybes, boss. And for someone so uncertain about something like a name, why would you kill me for the idea of love when there could be real love for me somewhere. I’m not sold on the idea but I’d much rather die for actual love than the metaphor.”

 

“That’s a little too over-the-top, don’t you think? There’s a greater power in the metaphor. I’m trying to reach people.”

 

“Who are you trying to reach?”

 

“People.”

 

“People. Forget abstract people and think about this person you’ve plunked down on this page. Save one soul with a purpose instead of a handful without.” He was walking the length of the beach, getting further from the items he’d dropped onto the sand but still existing in a place without other humans on the beach. A slim part of him hoped that he’d find someone in the creative corners of the Writer’s mind, an unexpected offshoot that could change the trajectory of the story. The further he walked though, and the more he realized just how barren the beachscape was, the more convinced he became of the Writer’s conviction and commitment to the storyline already plotted.

 

“It’s not so easy. I care about the world, maybe more than the world cares about me, but I want to say something and have an impact. You’re… I’m sorry, but you’re a tool in that goal. You’re a character and yes, you have both meaning and import, but only in the sense that I give it to you. I’m going to need you to head back towards your father’s house. I’ll need you to put your things down and go into the water, and it wouldn’t make much sense to have that happen way out here, away from where you began.”

 

“Maybe I was looking for love out here, some human connection that could save me from what seems to be an inevitable fate.”

 

“You can’t be saved from the inevitable; you can’t be saved from fate. Go.”

 

He turned around and began back, dragging his feet through the sand, coming to appreciate its dry abrasion with the knowledge of what was to come. The Character picked up his things and continued towards his father’s house. The sunglasses he pulled back to the top of his head, no longer minding the glare of the sun; appreciating it actually, the way it stung his eyes.

 

Somewhere, he thought, beyond the horizon, beyond the limitations of the Writer’s hands and imagination, stood the person that the Character loved. He couldn’t say whether it was man or woman, he wasn’t that self-aware, but he knew that the person existed and that they deserved at least some chance with one another. But he was powerless to the notions of the Writer. One dedicated to the quiet power of the individuals; the other dedicated to the loud nudging of the masses.

 

Ahead, the Character could see where he’d stepped onto the beach. He contemplated running but as he did so, a gust picked up against his face, reminding him that the Writer was inside his head as much as he was inside the Writer’s.

 

te wood that looked as if it belonged floating upon the sea. His father, renewed by new love and a new marriage, looked upon it as an impending retirement project to while away the winter months when Delaware held less appeal than it used to. His new wife had vacationed near this place in her childhood and the stories of pleasantly wasted away afternoons had lured him in. They had both been asleep while he slipped through the house, quietly opening creaking cabinets while searching for the blue and white striped beach towel that now sat folded underneath his arm.

Divides Great And Small (#42)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm

7:11pm

“Didn’t I say not to hit the ‘Door Open’ button?”

“If you did, I didn’t hear it.”

“This elevator is shit – it gets jammed like this every month. You’ll need to use the callbox to get a technician to come out.”

“I see it here.” Exasperation crowded his voice.

“These apartments were built in 1922 – I don’t think they’ve done much to improve the elevators since then.” She tried injecting a lilt into her voice to lift him a little but it traveled neither far nor well.

“Okay.”

 

7:16pm

“How long did they say?”

“Maybe sixty but probably closer to ninety minutes.”

“That’s about normal around here. At least I can hear you through this gap.”

“I think I can almost fit my hand through it…”

“No! That can’t be safe! What if the door suddenly shuts?”

“Has that ever happened?”

“Not that I know of but… you know, it could.”

 

7:20pm

“So I guess dinner’s off.”

“I just emailed the restaurant to cancel the reservation.”

“We’ll need to eat at some point though. I could make us something once you get out of there.”

“Do you cook?”

“I love to cook. And more importantly, I’m good at it. Plus I just went grocery shopping this weekend, so my kitchen’s stocked.”

 

7:27pm

The silence, with no offsetting visual, stretched out wider and taller than it should have, filling the hallway and the elevator shaft. He cleared his throat and they both felt a little echo tremor through the space.

“I just wanted to spend time with you, get to know you.” She smiled at the earnestness in his voice. “That’s sort of the point of the first date, right?”

“We can still do that here. There isn’t much to do but talk.”

 

7:31pm

“What are your top three movies?”

“Isn’t that sort of a clichéd question?”

“It’s not clichéd when you’re getting to know someone. It can say a lot about a person. If you said all three Madagascar movies, I’m not sure we could continue this conversation.”

“I didn’t know there were three Madagascar movies. I’m not even positive I know what a Madagascar movie is.”

 

7:40pm

“2008, for work.”

“You just knew you wanted to work in San Francisco, or you had the job before coming here?”

 

7:43pm

“I was in Austin for eight years. I managed a bar, kind of by accident.”

“How do you manage a bar by accident?”

“I had just gotten my business degree and couldn’t find a job anywhere, so I ended up spending a lot of time at this bar, Black Star. I became the regular there and after three months of drinking away most of my money and not finding any work, the manager, Kylie, left the job. She gave me a perfunctory interview and I stayed the next six years.”

 

7:48pm

“I gave up drinking for two years straight. I just felt like it was taking over my life a little too much.”

“Do you consider yourself an alcoholic?”

“No. I came back to it and I don’t think I ever needed it. It wasn’t a full-on dependency, just something that I turned to too much and then decided to turn off.”

 

7:56pm

“Your eyes are blue? I thought they were green.”

 

8:06pm

“I first met Karen… six months ago? We were in the same spin class at my gym. You’ve known her for a long time right?”

“We were neighbors a few years ago – moved in the same day actually. I don’t know that we would have met or become friends otherwise. The building had these social events every now and then but they were weird. Karen and I would go for laughs. Wait, you were in a spin class?”

 

8:19pm

“How long has it been?”

“Just over an hour.”

“So soon?”

“Hopefully.”

“The time’s actually gone by pretty fast.”

“I know, right? I could hang out like this longer.”

“You’re not the one stuck in the box.”

“Well I’m not going anywhere. I’m stuck in the hallway for as long as you’re stuck in the box. I’m right here” Stuck inside the box, he smiled silently.

 

8:24pm

“That seems like a rather brazen question.”

 

8:31pm

“I can just barely reach my hand through the crack here.” In the hallway, she saw four fingers edging through the opening until stopping at the last knuckle.

“You shouldn’t be doing that. What if the door suddenly closes?”

“It’s not that dangerous,” and she wrapped her thin fingers around his.

 

8:39pm

“Alright, bud; I’ll have you outta there in just one minute.”

“It isn’t hard to fix?”

“To fix? To fix takes time and money, to get you out only takes a minute.”

 

8:40pm

The door retracted smoothly under the strength of the technician and Charles stepped out swiftly as if the floor had been laced with burning coals. The maroon carpeting and moss green walls that he’d laughingly called old-fashioned not that long ago had since become inviting. Elizabeth smiled to see his face again in the soft yellow light of the wall sconces, safely removed from all restrictions. She took his strong arm, the extension of those fingers she had clung to just a few minutes earlier, and pulled him into an embrace, whispering words into his ear, her lips hovering in the closest atmosphere around his skin. Charles reentered her apartment while Elizabeth lingered to share a few words with the technician, shifting back and forth on her tan boots. He responded without looking at her, his hands and attention probing the black gaps of the elevator, and after a moment or two, she left him to his work and closed her front door behind her. The white wood closed firmly, separating two worlds from each other.

 

Recollections Of A Ghost (#41)

In Stories Volume 2 on February 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm

It would have been unfair to say the beach was ugly because it was beige and yet, as he stood on the thin and tattered wooden walkway separating the beach from the street, he couldn’t help but blame the visual malaise on the particular beigeness of that particular sand. All sand is basically beige, he thought, but there should be radiance, hopefulness, promises of joy, recollections of memories. The sand should be like the best doorman, the red carpet, the welcoming committee ready to impart kindness and warmth. But this sand appeared to be infused with nothing but grayness. An entire gray scale in every grain of sand.

 

He swept his vision along the length of the beach. A landscape of sand dunes blown into lumpy existence by the hot breeze that blew through the November afternoon. The Gulf of Mexico retained a measure of beauty, the sometimes deep blue and sometimes emerald water shimmering in the spotlights of sun that broke through the cloud cover. But to reach that water, first the great lumps of sad sand, the tendrils of green shrubbery that struggled to grow through the graininess, the faded red and white remnants of picket fences that used to cordon off portions of the beach. A wasteland landscape; not another individual had bothered to wander outside.

 

A glance backward and his eyes fell upon his father’s new vacation home on Sandy Boulevard; a tired old building of weathered white wood that looked as if it belonged floating upon the sea. His father, renewed by new love and a new marriage, looked upon it as an impending retirement project to while away the winter months when Delaware held less appeal than it used to. His new wife had vacationed near this place in her childhood and the stories of pleasantly wasted away afternoons had lured him in. They had both been asleep while he slipped through the house, quietly opening creaking cabinets while searching for the blue and white striped beach towel that now sat folded underneath his arm.

 

The breeze felt good against his bare chest and bare legs. A slight chill from the overnight air was still burning off in the rising temperature of the morning. He took his first step onto the sand, pleasantly surprised by the warmth it held. The wind blew some stray pieces of greenery into his path, tangling around his right calf and then spinning free and back into the distance before he could even bend down to remove it.

 

The beach was narrow and the water not far off. Halfway along, he dropped his towel to the ground, leaving it folded so as to guard against the wind getting any ideas of blowing it away. Already in nothing but his smaller-than-preferred black bathing suit, he placed the house keys and his phone in the fold of the towel, his sunglasses atop the little pile. The sun cracked through the spotty wall of clouds just as he cast his unshielded gaze back across the water, leaving him squinting into the sound of waves crashing against the shore. The wind over the water must have been stronger than he had imagined, the waves appearing larger in closer proximity than he had presumed from the remove of the beach’s edge. They gave him pause but nothing more.

 

At the furthest reach of the surf, he looked back and forth; saw patches of water where the waves crashed harder and pockets of relative calm. The waves weren’t so intimidating. He took his first step onto the wet sand and felt the water rush up around his feet. He splashed his way through the water that turned out warmer than he’d expected. Warm water, warm breeze; spending most of his life in the mid-Atlantic, this wasn’t what he expected from the days around Thanksgiving, but he’d take it.

 

As he reached knee-deep water, the waves came with greater impact and greater intensity. He could feel the pull against his calves as the water rushed back outwards. The wet sand sunk beneath his feet and then collapsed around the sides until they were nearly buried. He lifted each one out and used the current to speed along his process into the water. But his movement was abruptly canceled by the next wave that hit him with nearly double the force. His calves and hamstrings strained to keep him upright. The water wasn’t deep, not yet, but he didn’t want to be caught so low when the next wave crashed in. The retreating water almost took advantage of his straining forward but he was ready for it, even if it too was stronger than it had been moments earlier.

 

The next wave approached; he could see it forming not far from where he shakily stood. Pride contended with caution and though he assured himself that he could easily have fought through the breaking waves, the relative calm of the water not far to his right held a peaceful appeal. His lateral movement wasn’t that fast and the saltwater wall smacked into him with full force, knocking him down and leaving him prone in the surf as the water rushed wildly around him, through his ears, through his soul. The current was stronger again and he placed his hands deep within the ever-shifting sand to stay even the thought of his body shuffling along with the water. As quickly as he could, he got back onto his unsteady feet and moved along towards the neighboring calm. The Gulf water now reached just past his waist, the ebb and flow of the water pushing and pulling him. His chest hair dripped remnants of the emerald water that had beaten against his chest; he tasted salt along the ridges of his lips; smelled seaweed in his nostrils.

 

The next wave came at him while he stood sort of perpendicular to it and he was spared the brute force of what looked to have been a smaller wave anyway. The calmer water held steady close ahead, almost eerie in the way it stood in such stark contrast to the waves beating against the beach on both sides. Eerie wasn’t important though, not in anyway comparable to being away from those waves.

 

Somehow sooner than expected, he had broken free from the cascade of waves and felt a calm sense of relief as he moved into the calmer waters that were now up near his neck, so that he was primarily swimming and no longer relying so much on weary legs. But his elation vanished as he felt his body enwrapped by the strong force of a rip current flowing seaward. The water moving against the lower parts of his body didn’t threaten much but the surface gripped him tightly and pulled him away from the shore. As before, his now-wide eyes cast themselves around the beach in search of another human being but as before, he saw nothing. He opened his mouth to yell but with the unsteady levels of the current, he dipped slightly and took in a mouthful of Gulf water.

 

There’s no help, he told himself, there’s only me. Such a realization was meant to steel him for whatever he needed to do, to allow himself a moment of pause in order to understand what it was he needed to do, but it only made him panic. Flailing in the still seemingly calm water, he attempted swimming towards shore but only managed to tire himself out while being slowly pulled seaward. He paused again to collect his thoughts and to conserve some energy as he tread water.

 

He couldn’t tell how much time had gone by or how many attempts he’d made at swimming back towards land; only that he was growing more fatigued with nothing but a greater distance from safety to show for it. The sun was higher in the sky. How long had be been out there? Had it been ten minutes or an hour? The weariness throughout his body insisted it had been hours but that couldn’t be possible. He felt fatigue stretching it’s way through his muscles like a stain across a floor. The water pressure on his chest felt like it could collapse his lungs. Salt stung his eyes and clung to the roof of his mouth, leaving him feeling even more alien in the water.

 

The beach seemed far though he couldn’t say how much so; too far, that was what mattered. He couldn’t tell if the rip current was continuing to pull him away from land or if the normal push and pull of the gulf had taken him into its grasp. Swimming continued to take him nowhere, but there was no knowing if it was the current or the emptiness in his muscles. Everything was in contrast, opposition, and comparison to the current; it stood as the only constant. That and the emptiness of the land in front of him, though even if someone were there, he wasn’t so certain he’d be able to distinguish the shape upon the shore. Would he be able to call out? Would he seem in distress, bobbing there in the water as if simply enjoying the late autumn warmth?

 

He didn’t care. The realization came as a shock but it came nevertheless. He didn’t care if anyone was there, didn’t care if he could tell either way, didn’t care what he looked like, didn’t care about that crushing pressure on his chest, didn’t care about the legs that he could barely feel, didn’t care about the arms that were sagging in the water, didn’t care about how his body felt heavier and heavier in the water, didn’t care about the surrender that he felt taking over his head and heart. A sunbeam cracked through the clouds and caught his eye.

 

A vision took over his thoughts. Amorphous, multi-colored, and multi-faceted; a vision had taken over his thoughts and blocked away the sometimes deep blue and sometimes emerald waters engulfing him. He felt himself enveloped in arms, a formless sense that he couldn’t see and yet wrapped him in a soothing grip. He heard soothing words even if he couldn’t say what words he heard or what the voice sounded like or if it even belonged to a man or a woman. He smelled freshness; he smelled the natural scent of life that thrives throughout the world. Sweetness and salt touched his lips, washed over his tongue, remembered to him all the contrasting wonders of the world. And in that, in the midst of all those senses, in the swirling center of his fatigued dream drifting out into the gulf, his body seemingly evaporating from around him, he saw nothing. Black infinity trailed out before him. Whether it was the back of his eyelids or the expanse of nothingness, he couldn’t say. A welcoming void. It filled him from the inside out, his heart and soul finally joined together as one.

 

The world changed. He became one with the void and the void grew inside him. The world washed away.