The weather was changing. It was a regular day, neither ominous nor auspicious. He was playing in the surf, not far from his family lazily oblivious up on the sand. A good-sized wave of green, jovial as the others, reared above him. He tried floating over it but miscalculated: he was ahead of it, and it was closer to breaking than he thought. It lifted him up like a playful grandfather raising a child to his shoulder, then pitched him down into an explosion of foam.
An ocean’s wave is not a child’s wave. In the chaos and tumble of the spillout you have no control; there is no up or down. A roiling mass of seawater digests you until it is done. All you can do is wait.
This was not a huge wave; he’d been tossed by bigger ones than this. But it had its way with him for a few seconds. He thought of himself in that seething froth of water, a living being hidden in the chaos, a body not water. He was alive. And then it occurred to him─and he knew it was an odd thought─ that he could drown. He knew he was overreacting. But for one second something in him imagined he was near death, and he became desperate for air, for control, for time, for life. Something in him pulled at the sky, though he didn’t know where it was─and reached for earth, though that was lost to him, too. His helplessness infuriated him, then saddened him, then intrigued him.
Powerless over the force of the water jumbling him about, he was aware of an even greater force within him, also not under his power, reaching out for life. It was not his will; it was given. And unmistakably there was yet another force, another grasping, another desire, pulling at him, a yearning not his own, a mind that was in yet beyond the water, that came from wherever the sea comes from, reaching for him as if finally able to get at him here in this cataract. Never had he so deeply wanted life, or suspected that life so deeply wanted him. The two yearnings tugged at each other under the roiling water. Something like trust blossomed. He was amazed to feel an awe, a reverence for those clasped hands, that twinned yearning, and a desire for it even more than for air. He waited. The wave spit him up like Jonah.
He found himself rocked like a newborn in swirling seawater, washed. He almost wanted to go back, to go under, to go deeper, overwhelmed again, and touch that yearning. But all he could do was wait. In the water wasn’t where it would be now. It would be in him, as it always had been. It would be up there on the beach, back in the city, silently swirling in his days, the falling and rising, his reaching and the reaching for him through the chaos, under the unseen waves. He wouldn’t be able to explain it; that was another mastery he would not be given. It would have to change him. He would have to become innocent all over again, and again and again.
He wanted joy, he wanted sadness, he wanted it all. He walked up the sand. The weather was changing.
—July 7, 2017