It happened in August. I knew better than to wade into the water, but I’m compulsive that way.
The water seemed calm enough, barely a ripple on its surface. Maybe it was the shattered sunlight, winking and blinking like a thousand sequins, that drew me farther in. My feet followed the slope of the earth until I stood in chest-high water.
That’s when I saw the wave out on the horizon. I always think it is a small wave brought by some unseen current, a wave that will wash over me gently, but not pull me under.
So, I stood there and waited.
I should have known, and if I’m honest, I did know, but I have a chronic case of optimism that affects my vision. I’m so nearsighted that I cannot recognize reality until it’s right in front of me.
When it was too late to turn back, I saw what lay beneath that wave: the great whale. And it swallowed me, as it has done year after year.
For four and a half months I traversed the ocean in the belly of that whale, my old companion. Then last week, he spit me out, worn and wasted, my eyes unused to the light. For two days I lay on the beach, asking myself if I would return to the beach or move inland.
Next time it will be different, I tell myself. Teaching will not swallow me whole; I will teach and have a life. Sitting by the fire here on the shore, watching the small waves roll in, I believe that.
Next time it will be different. In January I will return to the shore, believing, always believing.
I am called to the sea. I cannot stay away.