Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Low Expectations, or One If By Sea (By Tom Martin)

It was dark, and it was cold, and it was quiet.

And then the rain came.

That's all I remember.

But it might have gone like this:

It was a Thursday evening when I made the decision, as good a day as any to be drastically dramatic. “It's now or never,” I say. And “never” was really not an option at all. The moment was now.

I get in, close the door. No sound, no warmth. It's cold. It's always cold here. Even in the blistering heat of the summer's reign, this town is still cold, cold and unforgiving.

I drive down the hills. The roads aren't smooth, not safe at all, but I go faster and faster until-bump-I almost crashed, I swear I almost crashed.

It was as if my life flashed before my eyes.

And how very dreary it was.

The roads are flat now, better for the brakes they say.

I stop, even though I don't have to, look, even though I don't have to.

What exactly is the right-of-way anyways?

Which way am I going, how do I have it, and is it really right?

I don't really question, I just think.

I pull out into the street and I just wait, just for a little bit, for no real reason at all.

What if this is my last moment?

What if right now, a car speeding by in the oppressive darkness strikes me dead, cold.

What if a meteor falls from the sky and crushes me into a million little pieces, gone.

What if?

A few more moments pass me by and I'm closer now. I'm closer to the shore. I can sense it as I roll down my windows and inhale the scent, the salty, bitter cold of the sea air. It thrusts past me, what else, cold. And just when I begin to think that maybe this isn't right, maybe there is no perfect place, I am here, this is it. I pull over to the side of the road, get out of my car and walk slowly, but surely to the bridge. I walk the planks, they creak, I don't care, it's none of their business. The sand brushed upon the wooden floor beneath me causes traction between it and my shoes. “Don't” it says, “go back”.

But I keep walking. I keep walking.

As I take my first steps into the sand, I nearly couldn't get back up, it pulls me in, trying to engulf me in one fell swoop. Over and over again, I escape. I hate the sand and have no time for it now. No time. I continue the routine until the sand is hard enough and more stable that it lets me go. I am practically thrown upon the beach. I walk little by little to the shore's line. It ebbs and flows in a rhythmic pattern, pushing closer and yet farther away from me. The stars are all I see above, small specks in the massive insignificance. The tide comes in higher now, it reaches my shoes. I paid good money for them. Such a shame. Splash, splash, splash. I'm an obstruction. An obstacle.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

Why think anymore, why bother? This is it, this is the moment. The sea is calling me. I look out for one last moment; the expansiveness of the ocean astounds me and terrifies me all at the same time. I would be just as essential there as I am here. Might as well be. I run. I can't jump, it's up to my ankles. So I run. I run into the sea and I don't stop. I'm soaking wet. I hate wet socks, I hate them. I run until I can't run any longer, until my feet can't touch the ground and until I can't feel anything at all. I float flat on my back and look up. But it was then, that I remember, looking up, that a drop of water hit my forehead. It was dark, and it was cold, and it was quiet. And then the rain came. It poured down unto me and then I realized that this isn't how it's supposed to end, and that I'm not the best swimmer, and the stars were there for a reason, and then I remembered that he said he would never let us perish by flood ever again.

So I got out, I got out of there. I pushed my way back to the beach, and fell down again once I hit the land. I looked up again, still in the pouring rain, and thought this was good enough. So I laid there and waited, and breathed.

When I was ready, I got up, and started to walk back to my car, and back home.

Pretending none of this had ever happened, and that it was all better now.

Which, I'd like to think, it was.