So how was everybody’s Halloween? We actually had trick-or-treaters this year! They were all adorable, and one girl had her tiny dog in a tiny turtle costume. He got a tiny piece of chicken jerky for his tiny mouth.
This is Desolation, watercolor on 11×15 watercolor paper.
She sank down to her knees in the sand, and then fell to her left, reaching to hold her legs against her body, for steadiness or warmth or some unfathomable reason. The tears streamed down her cheeks as she looked up at the clouds sliding across the sky.
“I can’t remember what color his eyes were,” she sobbed.
He sailed onward, onward, ever on,
Knowing ahead she waited, waited alone.
The wind in his sails
And the salt in his nose
And the anchor never unstowed.
The breeze fell calmer, calmer, and it stopped,
He frowned, and frowned in deep concern.
She checked her watch
And checked again
He was always prompt before.
Three days and nights and nights and days
He drifted, drifted aimlessly.
The sun stared down
And burned his skin
He lay awake in pain.
The wind picked up and blew some more
He cheered and cheered aloud.
She was gone from the dock
When he made shore
And so he left again.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot
I should have; I should have. But I was not. I was placed here, in this shape, in this body.
But the claws, the ragged claws. They call to me. I hear their scratching in the night, while I lie in bed in the place between wakefulness and sleep. I jerk from my half-sleep to find myself pinching the bedclothes furiously.
In the mornings my fingers are bloody, my nails splintered and bleeding, and the sheets dotted with my mortality.
Once, long ago, I went to the beach. I needed to hear the ocean roar, to feel the salt spray, to dig my toes into the sand until they vanished.
The seagulls screamed my name as they circled overhead.
It was too much; too much, too soon, and I struggled to yank my feet from the warm, comforting embrace of the sand, a million millon grains rasping against my tender skin.
I left my shoes there when I blindly ran to the car across the searing heat of the parking lot blacktop. The terror had me in its steely grasp; I didn’t realize my blisters until I woke again to my bloodied sheets. I expected the spots by now, not the pain in my feet.
I nearly screamed when I rose to empty my bladder. I hobbled back to bed with the trash can and called in sick.
They said I’m going to lose my job soon.
I don’t care.
I stayed in bed all day that day. Since I didn’t consume any liquids, I only used the trash can one time.
I feel that I am beginning to spin out of control.
What kind of a man picks his fingers bloody on his bedsheets and pisses in a trash can?
I scuttle; I scuttle ‘cross the floors.
I’m sure my pink slip is in the pile of mail that climbs higher and higher, blocking me into my home. I stopped calling three weeks ago.
I don’t remember how to use the phone.
It doesn’t matter anymore, anyway.
I can hear the ocean all the time now. Crashing, splashing, echoes of longing bursting my eardrums.
The seagulls still call my name. It falls from their beaks in rotting pieces. The stench drives people away; they seek their pleasure and leisure elsewhere, bright towels and umbrellas no longer cluttering my shore.
It is time for me to go home.
I push the mail out of the way and leave the door open behind me. This place will never interest me again: let the squatters take it, and the taggers paint it.
I’ve forgotten how to drive. No matter, my feet know the way better than my head does.
Is it a miracle that no one hits me with their careening car, that I do not breathe my last as a black-and-red mess on the double yellow line? Some may think it is. I don’t believe in miracles.
I see the ocean, and the waves beckon me home.
I break into a run, faster, faster, until at the place where the waves break on the sand I launch myself into the air.
My body arcs up and then down, sliding into the water like a hot knife through butter. The water heals itself over me, and I am gone without a trace.
The seas grow silent, and I am finally at peace.
Today’s Daily Prompt is about color:
Imagine we lived in a world that’s all of a sudden devoid of color, but where you’re given the option to have just one object keep its original hue. Which object (and which color) would that be?
Maybe by the time I finish writing I’ll have put my finger on something.
I read the prompt and my mind wandered: one of the first things I considered was my purple eyeliner. Yes, really. I can be that shallow. Now that I say that, though, my Across the Universe polish is truly a gorgeous color(s). But no.
The sky? Terribly cliché. No. Someone else can handle that.
Avocados are a lovely green, but we don’t judge ripeness by it. Steak! A perfect medium rare is an absolutely lovely sight to cut into. Sushi! Sushi is so bright and beautiful, but is that too broad? It’s an entire category. Maybe just tuna?
I choose the ocean. I live in a coastal state, but at the wrong end of it; the Gulf of Mexico is 300 miles away. Yes. I choose something that I don’t even get to see every day.
Because it’s the ocean, man. It’s important. It means a lot to me.
*There’s a sofa in here for two.
One of the things that’s been keeping me sane at this point has been watching comfortingly familiar movies while Ian’s at work and I’m not. And while he’s not. Last night was Hellboy.
Between Netflix and Amazon Prime, we’ve no shortage of movies, but I’ve pulled out the DVD books and even gotten into the VHS cabinets for Coyote Ugly–thanks, Abbi, for reminding me.
Tonight it’s going to be Pretty Woman and/or Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Thanks, Daily Prompt!
Far too long ago (three weeks!), KeAnne wrote a post entitled Swimming that I kept promising and promising, to myself and in her comment section, to respond to with a post of my own.
Finally, life here has calmed down enough for me to do so.
And with that statement, I sum up her post, oddly enough. Go read it if you haven’t. It’s beautiful.
“I love the ocean, but I can’t swim in it. It’s mainly due to fear. […] The ocean is too wild and unpredictable for me to be entirely comfortable with it.”
I love the ocean as well; but I am absolutely comfortable in it. My history does include frequently visiting family on the coasts of Rhode Island, Virginia, California, and the US Virgin Islands, with the addition of living on a sailboat with my parents as a toddler. Add lakes, rivers, and streams in Michigan, Colorado, Louisiana, and Arkansas. It’s not surprising that I’m okay with wild water.
But I know the feeling of uneasy anticipation when first arriving at a new beach. What are the waves going to be like? What kind of creepy crawlies or sharp spikies do I need to look out for as I slog to deeper water? I remember some serious surf in New England that almost killed me when I was around twelve. And when I went to help my grandparents with their move back to the mainland in 2003, I went with my grandfather to beach bars (him to drink, me to swim) where you got a free shot if you stepped on a sea urchin. I was extra careful to not be able to take advantage of that offer. I remember a storm once, when we took a family trip to Biloxi. But I never faltered in these situations. I wouldn’t let anything come between me and the ocean that I love so much. It was always worth the risk.
But somehow, that Lieutenant-Dan-screaming-into-the-storm attitude toward the liquid ocean doesn’t translate into the ocean of life for me.
Or does it?
The ocean doesn’t care; I am insignificant on its Neptunian scale. I swim anyway, when I can, luxuriating in its embrace.
Life doesn’t care; I am insignificant on its primordial scale. I live anyway, every day. I luxuriate when I can; I struggle to tread water when I must.
I am stubborn. I haven’t quit. Things happen, but I still make choices. I haven’t given in and huddled under a blanket forever, although that does have its appeal.
KeAnne’s analogy doesn’t quite fit my water-view. The ocean is wild, yes, but pools have their own dangers. We lived on a college campus when I was ten, when my mom was finishing her degree, so my best friend and I had access to the Olympic-size pool–with its miles-high diving board. Just the sight of that thing was almost enough to send me into a panic. It was so high. I couldn’t even jump off the small one without dares and mockery from the other children. But the high one? You can call me a chicken all day long. You can point out the four-year-old jumping off without a second thought. I wasn’t going to do it. I climbed up once, and climbed back down.
It’s all the same to me. Wherever you choose to swim, there’s danger lurking somewhere nearby. Maybe in, around, or under; maybe the water itself. It’s always there. But I still have to jump in, just not from a height. I still kick and frolic and dive. Because the choice is already made for me when I see the water. I have to go in. I can’t resist.
And the choice is made in life. There are dangers all around me, all the time. But I’m still kicking. I’m still trying to enjoy what I can when I can. I can’t resist trying to win. I can’t resist swimming.
“Through it all, the ocean keeps going, indifferent to the bruises it causes and the beauty it creates. It’s up to us to make our way through it.”
So true, KeAnne.