I wake up naturally at 4:45am and everything is still. I read a little in bed, relishing the alertness that follows true rest. I have been dreaming body horror lately: one day my earrings forge holes in my cartilage so big I can put my finger through them, another my prosthetic teeth fall out and I am left tonguing the screw that was implanted into my skull. I wake from these intact yet unsettled. But last night I dreamt of communion, of a return to my a previous workplace, of creative play with my colleague-friend and co-conspiracy with my boss’s boss.
Ever since I got into grad school I’ve stopped dreaming about campus life. No more does a student center, a classroom, a dance studio hold allure in my subconscious. The realer something gets the less alluring the idea of it is.
Rested, I run to the water. The waves call to me, each receding tide a tug on the string that tethers me to the ocean. I forget easily, but I belong to the ocean: He claimed me when I was ten, during a family trip to Marina Beach. I — a seasoned swimmer — jumped in with abandon and was swept into a rip current, an invitation to become one with the Bay of Bengal. I remember it vividly, the way my father sprung into athletic power and will and pulled me away from His embrace and back to shore, the way he heaved afterwards from the exhaustion and adrenaline and triumph of saving his son’s life.
We don’t talk about this in my family, but for decades after that I refrained from going in the ocean. I claimed I was more of a mountain person, that the beach bored me. I tried to surf a few times (I had moved to California after all) but I never swam on my own just for fun.
I belong to water, though. I’m still drawn to rocky coasts, to surf villages, to west-coast sunsets. Water people are my people. They move like currents, following seasonal patterns around the world. They hold things lightly, ripples eventually dissipating back towards stillness. Yes, I get swept away too, but in the water I am one with everything else. I can be a droplet or I can be the sea.
This winter, when I sat with the ocean to commune and heard the wind and the waves and the trees sing me the song of that place and ask me to sing along, I remembered. I remembered who I am and why the water won’t let me go: I owe a debt. And today, I pay pilgrimage. I lay on the sand, receiving the ocean’s song, reminded again of my duty. I have never been much of a change-maker but I have readily transformed myself, fluid in nature, a shapeshifter appearing and disappearing and re-appearing with the moon. I am water and my body is a vessel that holds fluidity.
If I am water, then you are land. You hold your ground firm, assured, stubborn. I can forget myself and emerge anew but you remember all. You’re capable of transforming too, but slowly and under immense pressure, like the pressing of layers of sediment until mud becomes shale. You can hold me in a way the ocean can’t: in open water I am boundless and I am bereft but in your arms I can be still, a shimmering lake or sleepy pond. You move mountains with your will and as my river flows down from the summit you give me the means with which to reach peak velocity and power.
Needless to say, we are good together. But we don’t call the same places home.
I yearn to be whisked away in a hurricane, to catch wind and reach escape velocity and touch the very edge of the atmosphere. You yearn to dig your roots further into the earth and become the scenery that makes this place beautiful. I am warm one minute, cool the next, I am vapor and liquid and you are sturdy, ever solid and stolid. Though when your volcano erupts and you shed tears of plasma even I couldn’t dampen your power.
I wish to be everywhere. I spread myself thin, hoping to fill every cup I have encountered, hoping to remember every thirst I have quenched. And you sculpt monuments to the past, the present, the future, knowing full well that it takes time and raw material and labor to build a house and to warm the hearth.
When the ocean saw fit to claim me once again, I stopped running from who I am. I will always be in this dance with you, with all of you who are land to my water. I keep talking about choosing one place or another, as though that will absolve my nature. But I am a wanderer by trade, and as soon as I am here I will no longer be. There are endless shores to land on and endless waters to engulf myself in. And whether I am here or there I know one thing will be certain: I will be water.
Um excuse me this is absolutely magnificent