All Storms Pass
The water is unusually choppy as we put our boats in, but we are laughing and joking, fighting the tide out from the docks. My arms are still singing from our last paddle trip, but it feels good to power out to open sea. I push out front, alone, loving the smack of the boat against each new wave, feeling my solitude there. I think about my kids, whom I had spoken with on the phone just before jumping in the boat. The little one just kept saying “my mama” over and over. So sweet. I can almost feel his little body hugging against me.
I don’t wish they were here, though, because I can see a storm brewing above the island. Still, right now, the sun is cooking my face, and my lips are tight from being on the beach all day anyway. The rain of salt water from my paddle each time it rises from the water provides a spray of relief. It’s beautiful out here. I have nothing on my mind, I’m smiling and relaxed. As soon as I hit a perfect rhythm, my boat bottoms out on the shallow shore. I’m surprised, thinking the tide was further up, but I hop out and drag the rest of the way, to high ground. The soft sand sucks my feet in as I go. I wave at the other boaters, and we nod toward the storm together.
“Looks like a big one,” she says.
“Yep. We should probably leave,” I say. But my friends are just approaching the shore, and I want to explore the other side. I strike out across the beach, with the other boaters’ little dog following.
I’m headed for the edge of the marsh, because it’s better there for seeing the landscape. I also want to see the other side. There’s a bit of a high place just before the marsh begins, with white dry sand that stretches about three quarters of the way across the island’s belly. I cross the tidal pools, and the pockets of muck and seaweed. By the time I get to the dry sand, my feet are covered in heavy mud. I shake it off, turning around toward the water. There are other people on the island, but I am alone up here. The only thing I can hear is the ocean, and the distant rumble of thunder.
The sound of the waves, when they single out everything else, remind me of swimming, at night. In my old life. Feeling close to other people, under the moon. And even though I’m standing here now, on this little island in broad daylight, my hands on my head in awe and satisfaction, damn near a year from all the tragedy of reinvention, this memory smacks at me like lightning, and I begin to cry.
I’ve had moments like this, over the past year. But this one is peculiar. I wasn’t sitting and thinking about the betrayal. I wasn’t contemplating my situation, trying to define forgiveness, or wondering about suffering. But yet here it is, this feeling, and it is upon me like a stone. I’ve learned, slowly, that the best thing to do sometimes, or the only thing, is to just feel it, so I turn and begin to walk the half moon of beach beside the marsh, and I cry and cry. It is audible, a weeping, not silent and subdued behind my sunglasses like usual. The sadness swells and throbs, building up from my belly and then forcing its way out. Oh my god. I nearly trip on driftwood, I am crying so. I can’t see. I stop, wiping my sandy arm across my face. I look out at the water. A deep breath. And then it is over. Sigh. It’s over. Breathe.
Instead, I begin to run, back across the sand belt, at the marsh’s edge. The storm cloud is purple black and hovering ahead of me. Here I am. A woman, young. I see myself, suddenly, tan and muscular, running the crescent beach in a navy bikini, long braid with no tie, its ends loosening with every step. My tear-stained cheeks under salt-streaked sunglasses. My hat, slightly crooked. I was crying because I miss them. How terrifying. How sad. I miss them and I hate them. Here I am.
By the time I get back to the others in the group, I look fairly normal. The lightning begins to hammer down around us. We joke, nervously, and lie down beside a spurge. Soon enough, the rain comes in, cold and stinging on our bare backs. I keep my head down, listening to the others talk. I am thankful for my hat, which allows me to keep my eyes open. I watch the rain make beads of the sand, which hops all around me. I wash my fingers in its grains, my skin wrinkled from water, my rings tangled together on my finger. My wedding ring. It’s a series of seven rings, all stacked but not connected. I simply moved it to my right ring finger when I left him. I get lots of compliments on it, and it does stand out. The shiny, hammered silver is striking against my dark, weathered fingers. I have rough hands. Worker hands. I am so glad my kids aren’t here. The thunder is very loud and unpredictable. The lightning is too close. I am starting to get very cold.
With no edge of the storm visible, and the lightning breaking a bit, we make it back down to our boats. Everyone is covered in sand, and looking piqued. Thinking we may break for it, we throw on life jackets and ready the boats. But as soon as we grab paddles, lightning skips across the water, and we turn back again. It’s been nearly an hour, and my teeth are chattering. The life jacket is keeping me warm, so I leave it on. I lie down and pull the boat up over me, closing my eyes. All storms pass, I keep thinking. It’s truly the only thought that is complete.
I don’t go to sleep, but am not sure how much time passes. Someone eventually says, “Oh thank god, I see the edge,” and I peek out from under my boat to look. Of course, I think. All storms pass. We endure the rain for a few more moments, and then pull the boats back upright. I throw in my shoes, take off the lifejacket, and paddle hard. In the distance I can see a tranquil sky, with clouds like thin polka dots. A cheerful fabric.
“I want some crab legs!” my friend yells.
“I need a drink!” someone else says. Damn right.
I am out front again, a steady pace. Not looking back.