I was three when I first saw the ocean and remembered it. It was a beautiful day and there were families all along the beach, kids playing on the sand, trying to build castles and other kids wading on the shore, letting the waves lap at their feet while they happily scream and run away from it. I fell in love with the ocean and vowed that I would come back every weekend or at least every time my father would take me, which was as often as eclipses would occur.
I was four when I almost drowned. My inner tire tubing/floater was a little too big for me and my assigned babysitter was too busy with something else to look after me. I slipped right on through and oddly enough, I felt like it was home. I stared from the bottom of the water, looking at my feet all up in the air and I didn’t move a bit, not until I couldn’t breathe anymore. I must have thrashed a little because then I heard screaming and someone yanked me up too quickly, making me cough and sputter. Everyone around me was either scared to death or angry. I was confused and displaced.
I was always at a beach somewhere for almost every year between 13 and 19. I’d look forward to it every summer. I held on to the smell of coconut oil on my skin, the rough feel of sand in between my toes and the sticky saltiness of my skin after the sun dried off the water from my ocean dip. I would stay in the waters until I felt I was one of those sad driftwood that float aimlessly towards an unknown and undiscovered island. I’d still feel the bobbing of the waters long after I’ve left the beach and was lying on my bed. I’d then dream of mermaids and brightly colored fishes dancing around me and twisting around in my hair as if it were anemone.
I was at a beach when I first realized how it was to be in love. The sun was kissing the horizon with its orange red hues, a perfect color sandwiched between an almost blood red sky and a dark red sea. He came up to me with a coke in his hand and a smile on his face. “Beautiful“ He said. I smiled and nodded in agreement. “And the sunset is kind of beautiful too.” I looked at him, almost about to tease him for his lack of originality and utmost cheesiness when I saw the ghost of his grin wrapped around that glass of coke. I did what I usually do. I blushed, said my thanks and never spoke of it again. He broke my heart, eventually, as all good lovers do. But the ocean and its sunsets will always have me to compare with.
One summer, the ocean decided to play a jealous mistress when I didn’t set foot anywhere near it. She took my uncle with her, dragging him under her torrents and undercurrents; jealously and angrily wrapping her arms around him, taking him hostage until I came to her. I was too far inland to hear her cries and humans weren’t built to breathe under her embrace. When she realized I wasn’t coming, she finally let him go, lifeless. She’s petty, the ocean. I never went near the ocean for a long time after that. I had to punish her, mercilessly, the only way I know how.
The next time I was anywhere near a body of water was when I was 25. I was alone in another country, with a dying boyfriend and a basket of heartaches. It never occurred to me that I lived in a town near the beach. I walked and walked until I felt the harsh salty wind slapping my face, the cold gritty sand in my sandals, the loud roar of the waves crashing on the rocks. My mistress was livid, accusing me of forgetting her, leaving her and now coming back to her. I dropped to my knees and screamed – rough and beastly and hoarse. I screamed at her, I screamed at the world, I screamed at God. And then, I cried. I cried until I fell asleep on the shore.
I woke up to the waves gently lapping at my feet. The sun was beautiful, up in her wide opposite expanse, the wind was gentle and everything seemed right again, at least between the ocean and I. My life at that time would be a maelstrom of confusion, regret, pain and learning. It would be a long time in between when I’d see my mistress again.
My daughter was born on a starry night, in the middle of the end of summer. She came into this world as if she were a woman of experience. Soon, soon, soon – I’ll take her to see the ocean, just like my father did.