I was in my seventh year of living, approaching the shore despite the brisk air and harshness of the lapping waves. I’d forgotten how to swim some years prior, but that fact never halted me from breathing in the beauty of the wild waters. The sky was bathed in clouds, like a bubblebath with too much soap. The salty breeze nipped at my cheeks and tossed my unruly hair about.
The ocean begged me to come near it. The waves beckoned me forth, surging forward then retracting back, like a finger gesturing for me to approach. Entranced, I allowed the sand to grow moist under my feet until even my toes began sinking into the ground.
The water splashed against me playfully. I giggled and splashed back, watching the spray as it sprinkled to nothing. The liquid swooshed around me a little more roughly then, but I thought nothing more of it as I played.
A chilled breath escaped my lips. I smiled as an onslaught of exuberant sensations flooded my interior.
And then I blinked.
Locks of a chocolate hue swayed across my complexion, blinding me. Some strands lightly gripped my cheeks as the others flew up; gravity plunged my body back until I had slammed against the grainy terrain. The wave that had surged at me receded, dragging me down with it a few feet.
I gasped for breath, relieving my body some when I had acquired the air back in my lungs. I lifted my head, followed by my torso, and sat upright on the damp ground I had somehow become a part of. My breaths became more panicked as I observed an enormous wave approaching.
My legs were drenched and half-way buried in the sand as I tried to claw my way out towards civilization.
I heaved my body up and wrestled with the very struggle of my instincts giving way. The wave was tumbling towards me, seeking me despite my efforts to let go…
I guess well over a decade later and I still haven’t been able to let go.
The sun was protruding from the clouds, collecting itself despite the attempts of the gray masses to obscure it. The dim rays of its light warmed my flesh, including my bare legs as they sauntered around with the frolicking water.
The ocean is my love. My adoration. My infatuation. I am set free when I inhale the air around it and I am triumphant every instance my body stands amidst the rocking current.
A wave collided against my skin and I laughed.
I’m stronger than who I was before. I’ve spent years being conditioned by life to be more resilient. I’m too smart to be brought down by what makes me so happy. And that is why I still return to the very place where I must override my fear of being washed away.
But today, the ocean just wants to play, and I live to enjoy its company for the moments I am with it. I revel in the joyous emotions brought upon by the ease of the beach. I forget the stress beyond the shore. I just let myself be embraced by an atmosphere I’m normally unaccustomed to. But it’s not wrong to love what you cannot understand.
I watch the light in the distance lower itself to the water’s level.
I realize, that before I prune or lose my stamina to the brisk draft caused by the diminishing rays of the setting star, I must go.
I resentfully tread away, watching as the water laps over my footsteps and how they vanish with the dissipating froth. I am unable to forget the beach though, as I trek away with the sand sticking to my bare feet.
My skin is sun-kissed and aglow with hydration. The scent of the stale air is like a perfume I know will eventually wash away. I sense that I’m rejuvenated by the very place I still yearn to see.
On land I arrive home, and with the memory of the mist against my skin, I close my lids and fall fast asleep.
A new dawn has come and I awake with the dispersing rays of light.
I stare at that blazing luminosity amongst my familiar surroundings. I think of how sad I am, immersed in a dazzling glow, but not the waves of a beach that already washed me away.
I stare out the window, somewhere far off, as if I’m back by the water.
How dismayed I am, that every time I need the sea, I must come to it on my own. And every time I must bid adieu and hope to still see those lurching waves, I have to realize that when I’m home, it never followed me back.
I inhale sharply.
The water almost drowned me once, but I found the strength to stand. The wave had come as I departed trembling with fear. I came back the next day and learned to hold my ground. A little girl believing she could power through what comprises a majority of the planet, stood with nothing to lose.
Though it is still hard to say goodbye; I’m unable to decipher why, for the ocean is not my world. I see it when I may but it does not beckon me like it once did. Maybe it’s because at one point I was like the sand it dampened but now I’m the rock that won’t erode.
You see, one experience can shape you, another can change you, but it’s how you come back to confront what you never thought you would, that defines you.
Good or bad. I can’t tell what it is. But I won’t stop going to the beach simply because my strength was once tested in a way I had not yet known before. Nonetheless I did it; I fought to stand and I survived, and it didn’t stop me from finding happiness in the very waves that once threatened to swallow me into oblivion.
And now, when I step towards those waves, I remember that little girl and the power that I have when I see the ocean– and that I too, hold the power to escape it.
Because though I may love that place where the water meets the sun, I won’t forget the strength I found when both had let me down.
-Kiran Bains Sahota