I stood there. The waves rolled onto the shore and retreated back just before touching my toes. I closed my eyes and breathed in the salty smell of the breeze surrounding me. I was alone on the white sand, yet the little entities near me, the crabs, fish, and other species reminded me that I was never alone. As this thought crept over me, I felt a sense of serenity. My eyes remained closed and I breathed deeply. I was content. Everything on this beach was peaceful; there were no worries here to corrupt my thoughts or influence my stress. Here, I could be alone with my thoughts.
As each wave hit, it took away part of the shore, bringing some of the sand into the ocean. I was like this, in a way. Each time that I was reminded of the bad thing that happened to me, a piece of me drifted away, causing me to become less than I was. With my eyes closed I could feel the sand withdrawing with the waves and wondered if anybody realized the parts of myself that were now gone.
I felt nearly empty. Being somewhere, surrounded by people, took even more away from me. It was hard trying to keep it together when anything could cause me to breakdown. The beach is the same way. Each human that comes and steps onto the beach takes with him or her even more sand away from the shore. I was at one with the shore.
My mind drifted to the soothing sounds of the waves again. Each breath I took echoed the crashing of them onto the shore. It was as if the ocean were breathing with me. Each part of this beach reminded me of myself: the sand, like my mind, and the ocean, like my lungs. The only way that I was, indeed, not apart of this setting was my understanding that I was not physically declining as the sand.
Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I was as lost as the grains of sand slipping between my fingers. I lifted one of my hands to reach for a nearby shell. I held it up to my ear. There has always been the saying that one can hear the ocean through these shells, but as I held it to my ear, all that I heard was air emptying out of it. I felt like the shell too. Sometimes, I just needed to breathe, to let the air out of myself.
A crab walked over the sand, scurrying away from the oncoming wave. This crab, was a representation of everybody who had walked over me in my life; my parents never allowing me to make decisions for myself, my friends always controlling plans and conversations, even my teachers trying to influence my opinions by grading my journals lower than those of people who mindlessly agreed with everything a teacher said. Each of these people and more, I saw in the tiny crab. The weight of what they had done to me, like the shell on his back—or so I hoped. I hoped that the people who had hurt me would be pained to hear of the result of their ongoing superior attitudes towards me, that they would carry it with them.
The sun was beginning to set. The ocean, on the outside, began to mirror the reds and pinks and oranges of the sky. On the outside, I mirrored my suppressors’ opinions in order to appease them. On the inside, like the ocean, I was blue—no, not in color but in spirit. The lowering sun looked beautiful on the surface of the water, but I knew that it was just a temporary perception. Under the surface, the real troubles lie—pollution, parts of the sea eating others, oil drills. I was polluted like the ocean—my mind had become so used to repressing my own thoughts that I could no longer form them. My mind began to tell my heart about the fears of trust and love so that I no longer could.
I closed my eyes once more. The tide had risen and it swiftly overtook my legs. The water left them cold, but at least I could feel. I could sense the water rising to my stomach now. My hands gripped at the sand being taken away into the ocean and I desired to be apart of the sea as well. My eyes remained closed. My clothes were wet, but I expected this. I knew that I wanted the sea to overtake me. I was calm as I allowed my head to be submerged in the salty sea.
This was it. I was about to lose consciousness…and lose myself. I was literally drowning myself in my sorrows. I felt reassured of my decision as my fingertips dragged into the ocean with the sand I was holding. I felt a pressure on my arm, and sunk into the darkness.
Dazed and confused, I awoke buried in a pile of blankets in a house that I did not know by a fireplace. From what I could tell, it was a small cottage, most likely near the beach where I had been. This place smelt strongly of burnt wood and salt and the blankets I was wrapped up in were made of an itchy fabric that was ironically homey given the circumstances.
A shadow appeared out of the corner of my eye, illuminated by a lantern onto the dark wall. I fell to back the floor, pretending to be asleep. My eyes closed shut, but I opened one ever so slightly so that I could see who had brought me here. The first thing I heard was what sounded like a bare foot hitting the white wooden floor. The person was quiet and careful as they stepped into the room where I lay, as if to not awake me.
The smell of the smoke next to me began to itch my nose and I squirmed slightly under my blanket barricade. “You’re finally awake,” a voice said.
I had been caught. I sat up slightly, removing one layer of blankets in the process.
“It’s okay. You’re safe here. I saw that you fell asleep on the beach, and when high tide came in you almost got swept away.”
If he had known that I wanted to be taken into the ocean, would he have saved me still? I watched him as he tried to analyze my face. His was kind. He had deep brown eyes with curly brown hair, complimenting his olive skin tone. He wore a red plaid shirt that was basically unbuttoned and blue jeans rolled up to his calves and wet on the bottom as though they had been touched by the waves. His feet, as I guessed, were bare.
“I have some clothes that you can change into. I’m sure that yours are dry by now, but if you’d like them they’re in that room over there. You can stay here if you have no where else to go.”
At that moment, I could think of nowhere to go, but back to the ocean to finished what I had started. I stared at the man’s bare feet that were covered in sand. He had taken from the beach and given my life back to me. He had taken what was not his to give back something that would have been lost. Such a strange idea that he had taken to give.
I walked to the room that he had motioned towards and moved towards the window instead of the clothes-covered bed. It was dark, but I could see the moon reflecting off of the ocean and imagined the tiny ghost crabs scurrying across the sand, dancing with the waves. Rushing towards the ocean in search of food and away in pursuit of safety. Perhaps I needed to be one with the crab. Maybe I needed to find away to dance with the struggles, to face them in search of answers and ignore them in times of joy.
Apart of me was tired of being tired of life. The feeling of the ocean overtaking me was far to calming for me to be okay with being alive again. I was dead, gone, at peace until this man dragged me from the sand. And for what? To appease himself? I got dressed and walked into the next room, determined to find out why he had taken me from my end.
“Who are you?” I asked. Honestly, I didn’t care. His bare feet had left footsteps in the sand that would be there until another person carelessly marched across the sand with no attention to the fact that they were taking pieces of the shore home with them.
“I live by the beach. I saw you, um, drowning after napping on the beach. I couldn’t just standby and let you drown, now could I?”
He was a hero, or so he thought. He wanted me to be grateful and grovel at his feet, but instead I insisted on knowing more. “Maybe I didn’t want to be saved. Maybe I wanted to go into the ocean.” A morbid sentence but perhaps he would know that he hadn’t saved me, and that he had, instead, just postponed the inevitable.
“You didn’t want to go. If you had, you wouldn’t have clutched my hand when I pulled you out. I grabbed you arm and then your hand and you squeezed onto it, slightly, but you did.”
Had I done that? I couldn’t remember. I didn’t remember anything after everything went dark.
“I lied, though. I know you weren’t napping. I have been watching you all day, wondering what you were doing out there as you looked at the sand…reflecting on life, I thought. You turned for a second, and I could see in your face that you were not contemplating life but death. Then, I waited. I waited to save you.”
“I bought this house to do the same thing. I moved here so that I could drown myself, but my family and friends would think it was an accident—that I was swimming to late or something. Living here, though, is peaceful. There’s none of the bullshit that’s out there. There’s none of the stress. I can paint and write and sell them in town. I don’t make much, but it’s enough to live off of, and that’s all I need.”
I had nothing to say. What would my parents think if they had found out that I died? Of course I had thought about it a little bit, but this man had bought a cottage in the hopes of sparing their feelings; so that he could make sure that they would not know of his struggles whereas I had wished that the burden would be carried on the backs of everybody who had said anything to hurt me. I was selfish in comparison.
“Look. I know that I could just be stalling and that you will try again but don’t. Just find something that makes you happy. I know that, that seems like it is too simple of a response, but I have gone through a lot of shit, and I’ll tell you right now that living here makes all of it worth it.”
I still had nothing to say. How does somebody who just tried to stop living think about how to keep living? I couldn’t think of anything to say.
“Promise. Promise me that you will at least try to find something to make life worth it.”
I shook my head. He had persuaded me. I may not have anything to be my reason to keep me going, but for now, his speech would be enough; I would try.