Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The sea was rough

in Narragansett Bay.  The lifeguards' yellow flags whipped in a stiff breeze.  (I don't think I registered what that meant.)

I was encouraging Nico while he taught himself how to boogieboard in the shallow surf.  But finally, annoyed by waves splashing coldly onto my dry shoulders, I told him I was going to go for a swim and I'd be right back.  Monica would watch out for him.

I was quickly out of the shallow surf and into deeper furrows and bars -- swimming down amid the tatters of seaweed torn from some undersea rock somewhere and being shredded further in the violence of sand versus water.  It took only a few moments to realize that there was a massive current under the waves and it had me.  On the surface, I struck out toward the beach, stretching a foot downward for the reassurance of a foothold that wasn't there.

Soon, I was making all the headway of a cork bobbing in the surf.

As my breaths came louder and rougher, I felt a twinge of panic.  It wasn't fear of death, but a fear of the humiliation of being rescued.  Fear of being the man who matched his weak swimming up against the undertow.  Or worse, of being the fool who hadn't even known such a contest was in the offing and swam blithely out as though the sea were a great, domesticated bath, rather than the indifferent and merciless deity that it is.

Maybe my swimming had an effect or maybe the waves just consented to cast me forward rather than back, but my toes rasped the bottom and I walked and swam and thrashed my way back in.  

Humbled but happily un-humiliated.  

(An epitaph worth living up to?)

                                                                               Photo by Nico B.