“In bed that night I invented a special drain that would be underneath every pillow in New York, and would connect to the reservoir. Whenever people cried themselves to sleep, the tears would all go to the same place, and in the morning the weatherman could report if the water level of the Reservoir of Tears had gone up or down, and you could know if New York was in heavy boots.”—Jonathan Safran Foer
The waves were high that morning and he wondered if he should go out. It was shorebreaky, the faces steep and just about the worst for surfing. But others had done it, and he would too. He pictured himself being pitched over the falls, his board spinning in the air above the froth, his leash twisting and twisting and snapping against his leg, his body rolling in the surf.
The air was that perfect mix of salt and seaweed, a briny, raw scent that burned his lungs. One at a time, he lifted his arms and rolled out his shoulders, letting the muscles stretch and pull, his breath coming in deep waves with the motion. He let his arms fall to his sides and pull him down so that his forehead touched his knees. He let it rest there, leaning into the pressure of his back muscles stretching and relaxing. He let his hand drift until it found his leash, and he wrapped it around his ankle with more care, more thought than usual. He twisted it to that perfect spot on the outside of his ankle bone and lifted his board from the sand, tucking it under his arm. It fit so perfectly there, nestled into his armpit, the wax facing out and grabbing his rubberized arm.
It fit there, in his embrace, far more snugly that she ever had, he thought.
Head up, he scanned the waves and waited for a pause. When a lull in the sets appeared, he strode out into the ocean, grimacing slightly at the sting of the February waters, as he always did. Shoving his board in front of him, he thrust it over a breaker and leapt on, his arms slicing cleanly through the water. It was a beautiful morning to be broken.
When he made it to the lineup, he sat for a beat, facing the shore and everything he’d left behind. As much as he always tried to leave everything on the beach, to ditch his worries and forget the pain that drove him to the waves, he never could. He knew he had to take these things with him out here, let the ocean take them and roll them over and carry them out to sea for him.
There was a man in a faded wetsuit a hundred yards to his left, sitting peacefully on a Harbour log. His grizzled beard held droplets of water and bits of seaweed, and his arms hung loosely at his side as he scanned the horizon. The man hadn’t moved the entire morning, passing up set after set of clean waves. It was getting choppier by the minute, and he knew the set would become blown out and mushy within the hour. Maybe the man knew something, he thought. It’s always the perfect waves that have the power to do the most damage.
He finally readied himself for a wave, spinning his board beneath him to watch for something worth grabbing. It was like window shopping, this waiting game. You could sit in the lineup all morning and not have the courage to take a wave, or be too picky to grab something less than perfect. It got to a point at which a surfer had to just take what was rolling through. We can’t predict what the ocean will serve us on any given day; the surf reports don’t lie, but they are guesses at their core.
After letting a few decent sets move beneath him, he spun towards shore and stretched out on his board, reveling in the way it always somehow became an extension of him. Arms pumping, he paddled forward and waited for the wave to grab him before popping up. It was decent, almost overhead, and he had to be nimble to navigate the drop. Part of him wanted to become a noodle, to fall apart and let the wave crumble over him, take him whole. But his instincts kicked in and he sliced into a bottom turn, letting the rails dig into the belly of the wave. There was no barrel here, but he preferred it. Getting lost in a green tube would have been too tempting.
When the wave began to close out, he kicked over the crest and let his board flip up into the air. Diving backwards, he let the cold Pacific swallow him whole, the water shocking his system. For a few blissful seconds, he tumbled about weightlessly, letting the current take and pull and rip and tousle his body, rough at times and gentle at others.
In those seconds, as he was suspended in water and salt and seaweed and sand and hydrogen, he thought about the whole thing, the course of finding her, of loving her, of knowing her and being completely broken by her.
He opened his eyes and saw the haze of seagreen water around him, felt the sting of it against his eyeballs, the pressure of the waves tumbling above him. It was a place he wanted to stay forever, but he eventually punched off the seafloor and rocketed to the surface, his right hand leading his head, trunk, hips out of the water. He floated for a second and let another wave roll over him, feeling the relentless tug of his board as it was pulled towards shore. He wanted to just drift, let the ocean take him as its own, let the sun shine down on his slick body, let the salt corrode his skin over days and weeks. But the more the air filled his lungs, the more the salty water kept him afloat, the more the sun warmed his face, the more he knew he would stay earthbound, tied to the solidity of life if only for awhile longer.
It was the walking away, the ignoring and the harsh slap of reality that allowed him to move on. It was realizing that he was more than what he was with her; that he was a human being capable of surviving on his own, happy or not, that forced him to rein in his board and swing his arm, then his leg over it to paddle back out. The waves were growing now, the swells coming in sets of three or four with long pauses in between, as if the ocean had to stop and gather itself, find the water and power and wind to whip up these monsters. He grunted as he crested a swell and popped up, scanning the skyline for the next group, waiting for something worth chasing.
He let seven sets roll beneath him before he found a wave breaking at the right point. He tried to find some symbolism in this, in waiting for something that was just right, that was breaking at the right point, just growing and cresting in a way that meant he didn’t need to move his position so much as swivel around and pump his arms like pistons until the wave took over. But he wasn’t much of a reader, and he decided it was better to separate this moment from the shitshow that his life had become. Instead, he gave a few strong strokes, dove into the wave, and waited for the push of the ocean beneath him. Eyes up, he pushed himself up and dropped down the face, just barely bringing the nose of his board up enough to cut across the face.
The following seconds were a blur; he may as well have been existing in a different world. He was machine, animal, an extension of the wave. He was part of the earth and completely separate at the same time, and it was perfect. In that moment, he was okay, and he knew that when the wave finally closed out in a thunderous rush of spray, he would still be alive in every sense of the word.
There’s a park up on the bluffs that looks over the whole city, and it’s one of those places you could just be. We used to sit under a spreading tree, our sunburned legs dangling over the concrete lip, letting our bare feet brush the bushes that fell away to the the chalky cliff below.
We used to talk about it all there, about what being happy was and how far we’d come. We’d talk about running away and being something. We’d talk about the depression, about feeling like we were stuck in slow motion, while the world moved forward without us. We’d talk about love and God and suicide.
We were free, we were open and honest and we were bound in our pain. And we watched the cars pass below, we watched the boats in the harbor and watched the swells roll onto the beach. We’d watch the sun rise and set and the stars move over us and drink in the inky sky.
Realizing you’re a temporary part - a piece of the puzzle and not the whole picture - hurts more than you can know. But it means that you’re important and that puzzle wouldn’t ever be complete without you. You’re the stepping stone and the bridge and the part that makes everything tick. You have a purpose, and no matter how much it burns to realize that, it means you’re doing good and you’re playing a part. And maybe they don’t realize it, and maybe they take you for granted, but you know. You know you matter.
Today we went for a drive and we never quite got to where we meant to go, and there was this blissful period of suspension, with the music and the passing cars and the August sun.
And in that time we thought, and let the music fill the silence, and let it move us. And I realized that everything works out, and that I don’t need to go to places I don’t want to go, and that success is just being happy wherever you are right now.
This is the ending of everything and the beginning of things we don’t yet know. This is the closing and the opening, the simultaneous, the switch. It’s sudden and altogether and it’s at the same time disjointed. If you look hard enough, listen closely, you’ll see the gaps, the light in the cracks, the hang time.
What we do with it is everything. It can change all that we know and all that we are.
We will hold it in our hands until it runs out, the grains of sand and light and memories dripping through our fingers and falling to our toes.
We will run until our lungs are close to bursting, let the waves roll over us and hold us down for a beat too long. We’ll drag our toes through the water, letting our feet dangle off the sterns of boats, watching the bubbling wake spread out behind us. Because right now, looking forward cuts a bit too deep. There’s a time for the memories and the nostalgia and the holding on, and that time is now.
We will hold each day in a crushing embrace, letting it run out until the sun pulls the moon down and drowns it in inky night. We will watch the stars form and spread and fade and then rush through the day to see it again. We’ll bring up the dawn and soak in warm, hazy mornings.
We will face the day with the knowledge that it is one day less, and so it is to be savored, to be rolled around and lived and taken deeply. Not a second is to be wasted, not a breath is insignificant when the sand is running out so quickly.
Because this will be the last, the last days of freedom and youth and roaming and being burdenless. After this, nothing will be the same. The good will remain, the sunny days and long nights and open beaches and hills and the salt air that burns so good. But it will not be the same. Each day will be its own until it becomes the past. And so we live each of those days all the way up, taking as much as we can, stuffing ourselves to a point at which we’re painfully alive.
It’s why we suffer, this type of living. It’s why we endure the long evenings that fade into a lonely twilight, those nights that the only respite is music and dark and pillows and ceilings. It’s the times we run into the hills and hope they swallow us whole. It’s the days we don’t mind whether we return or not.
Those moments make the full days, the hours of brightness and company and good so much sweeter. The shadow of future and unknown and pain are what drive us to embrace each day so fiercely, to live with the knowledge that freedom is fleeting and we shouldn’t pass up any opportunities.
It’s about knowing when to say no and knowing when to run with something.
And we will make mistakes, and we will stumble, and we will be failures in the darkest sense. But we will learn and move forward and become stronger where the scars lie and make ourselves new.
And we will find our own happiness so that we can be who we were meant to be. It might take more than a summer, but it’s all the time we’re given.
We once lived in darkness; against all odds, we’ve run from that place and embraced the fact that life is difficult, people will tear you apart, and we’re stronger for that reality. I can’t promise we won’t return, but I know that we’ll be smarter, stronger, more resilient than ever before. I don’t regret a second of it.
“When the surf was high, the sounds of the sea was one continuos roar, heavy, deep, dark, sombre, with all kinds of variation, and at its height you felt it also came from the very earth beneath your feet. Composers would have called this the opera of the sea, poets would have called it the expression of the bleeding dawn sky, and priests the voice of god in nature.”—Sudursvelt
It was one of those gray mornings I’ve come to love, those days you need to bundle up but it’s still warm, the wind just a soft breath muffled by the cloud cover. The hills were showing a hint of gold, the spring’s lush green hues fading slowly to the ochre of summer. Oats swayed gently in the breeze, their wispy tips creating waves across the ground. It was a perfect morning, one that begged for pause. We stopped at the top of the trail, letting the valley spread out below us in a wash of muted green and gold.
I’ll never be able to explain the way he makes me feel, the way he’s been my constant for the past four years, though heartbreak and sickness and anger and the dark days. He was there for them all, his patience infinite and his presence filling up my being.
I don’t expect anyone to understand that. I can hardly put our relationship into words; it’s a union built on power and trust and the strangest kind of love. Even when I’ve been at my very worse, he carried my burdens and lifted me back up. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve stuck together because together we are perfect.
This is a scary world with too much pain and too much suffering, and only place I’ve ever felt safe - ever - has been with him. It’s a strange state of being, when I’m with him, like nothing could possibly touch me. Everything is, for a brief moment, perfect. And the thought of losing him - the fact that I will lose him eventually - is the most terrifying at all. But I suppose I can hold onto what we’ve had, how far we’ve come, and the fact that for now, we still have each other. These last four years have been, despite their setbacks, the best of my life, and I couldn’t have done it without him by my side.