The next wave

Dana Richie; Atlanta, GA—

I stood at the water’s edge, my feet planted firmly in the sand. I stared at the ocean’s endless cycle of crashing waves and wondered if and how I fit into all of this. Double-decker waves seemed to tower above me as they made their way closer, only to diminish into a soothing sizzle of foam and bubbles. Every once in a while, a wave would scurry across the sand and splash across my feet, sending a feeling of cold realization tingling through my body. It woke me up and soothed me. I realized I could stand there for hours just watching the ocean attack and retreat. Families nearby came and went; parents sat under colorful umbrellas while their children screamed in jubilation. They built sandcastles that were later torn down by the destructive force of the ocean that I found ever so peaceful. My feet remained in the same spot, no matter how much sand the ocean tugged from beneath my soles. It didn’t matter that I was slowly sinking; it felt as though the sand was conspiring with the ocean to keep me in one place. For the first time in my entire life, I embraced the lack of control I felt.

I closed my eyes to give my other senses a turn to feel and hear the waves crashing at the shore. It was terrifying at first. The whirring of the sea crescendoed as each individual wave made its way towards me. Each time I heard the familiar, deep whooshing sound, I was positive that the waves would drag me out to sea. Rationally, I knew this was impossible; a wave that close to the shore at most had the power to spray me with a cool mist. And yet, without seeing the object of my anxiety, I let the sound of a mighty wave twist the image in my head. But still, I did not move. I couldn’t. I made a promise to myself that I would not let a terrorizing image in my head blind me from reality. How could a scene that seemed so peaceful become terrifying in just a matter of moments? I pondered this deeply, desperate to take my mind off of the roaring ocean just a few yards away.

A wave crashed into my shins, sending that same chilling sensation through my body and bringing my mind back to my twisted version of reality. I had survived the wave’s vicious attack, yet I did not feel reassured in the slightest way. What if the next wave was bigger? What if it was more ferocious? What if it had the power to drag me away? I dug my feet into the sand as I heard the wave’s strength brewing as if this would protect me. When the wave finally reached my feet, it was just a trickle of foam. I almost laughed. The actual wave was nowhere near as frightening as my mental image of it. I wiggled my toes to remind my body that I was in control.

I kept my eyes closed and continued to feel the waves wash over my feet, finally acclimated to the frigid water. Was my spirit acclimated now, too? I would like to say I showed strength of character and kept my eyes closed the entire time, but occasionally, I peeked. The ocean seemed colorless after such a long time of staring into the darkness of my eyelids. I kept my eyes open long enough to match the rushing sound of a monster-sized wave with the image of a small wave at the end of its life. I kept my eyes open long enough to watch the swirls of green and blue and off-white foam fill the once gray ocean. The ocean became inviting once more. It was crazy how much my perception changed after simply opening my eyes. I did not want to close my eyes again and enter the world of the terrorizing ocean. I wished to remain with the vision of an inviting, peaceful sea.

I dug my feet out of the sand shoes crafted by the waves. When I turned around, I noticed a changed landscape; the tacky, colorful chairs that littered the beach when I first arrived were gone. I truly wondered how long I stood like that, entranced by my own thoughts and visions, called to the ocean like the poor sailors to the sirens. The sun had shifted positions in the sky. I suddenly became aware of how I was alone.

I trekked through the deep sand, my feet burning with every step. The powdery sand turned into rocks as the dunes drew nearer. I put my flip flops on, a simple form of acknowledgement that I was reentering the real world. As I looked back at where the ocean met the sand, there were no physical remnants of where I stood for hours. I had to smile. The same forces that exposed everything uncertain within me had the power to make everything disappear.

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