some fall in love. i shatter.

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.

 

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