The grief, the loss of what she had hoped for, lapped as relentlessly, as inevitably, as the breakers crashing again and again—minute after minute, day after day. Repeating their reach and retreat for millennia. Tumbling like so much seaweed, all of what-almost-was washed ashore, only to be drug back out again. Over and over.
She leaned back on a towel, draping a black shirt over her eyes to shut out the sun, to escape the visual parable of her mourning. Hidden, cocooned in a secret world, she faded in and out of consciousness, gliding beyond the bondage of time… crashing in and out, forwards and backwards… shattering into myriad white droplets, absorbed under shifting currents, scattering and drifting thousands of miles from shore, mere glints on a swell—
A baby cried, tugged her into alertness. The child quieted. She swished her heels, expending off the towel, digging deeper into the sand. Coarse and cool. Fading… sinking through grain after grain, sifting through layers—
Mexican music pulsated from a group settling next to her, yanked her into wakefulness, back into the dogged ticking of minutes… into the calling out of a mango seller. He was passing by, silhouetted through the black fabric, his voice fading and swallowed by the roar of unmitigated, untamed superiority grasping at the shore—unseen through her dark sieve, but ever omnipresent. The resounding rumble seduced her through maracas and mandolin into a sweet semi-trance… spinning like a torpedo through dappled fragments… beyond the reach of the clock… tossed like paper in a driving wind. Wet salt blasting into her nostrils; eyeballs rolling as pressure shifted and tore at her face, driving her deeper… slipping into detachment, numbness… whirling beyond light. All senses usurped by the thunderous roar. Tugged out further and further, too tired to fight, too buffeted to crest the depths. Sinking—
She awoke with a start, sunlight piercing the woven fissures of the black fabric. Its lower folds had slipped down, over her mouth, sucked between her lips. Alive, very much alive.
Tossing the shirt aside, she clambered to her feet and wandered to the rim of wet sand bowing below its master’s dominance. A ripple withdrew, and tiny pockets of bubbles spurted from the sand. Antennae, invisible to her eye, poked out, drawing oxygen into tiny shells clasping sentience within. Unseen but for the puckered evidence, they littered the stretch of drenched beach, withdrawing and tucking away as the next surge thrust ashore, a lesser wave trickling in, granting reprieve to those higher up. The unluckier lower ones scuttled deeper, holding their breath, waiting. Then a mighty wave crashed in, colliding with the smaller one retreating, white spray flying, water swirling to her knees, burying them all.
What mysterious force drives waves to either relent or overwhelm?
A seagull swooped low over the next crest, waiting in line as it mindlessly assumed authority. The bird barely skimmed its surface, teasing, taunting, then lifted, effortless and unafraid.
As the creature ascended, suddenly everything made sense, and nothing made sense. But in that moment, somehow the answers didn’t matter anymore, every question absorbed into the mystery and magnificence of her smallness. Into the determination of the tiny bubbles flickering yet again across the sand. Into the gull soaring high over the sea swirling with power and might that somehow held it all together.