I am seeing someone else and we are done, he announced, over the phone.
I didn’t walk so much as I drifted along the shore. In those early days, a low moan escaped my mouth, raw and guttural. A held-back wail. My bare toes clenched for solid footing over the slick rocks, or my feet sank wholly into the sandy silt between, the January water cold on my feet, my camera heavy on my shoulder, my hand cradling the long lens to keep it from pelting my body.
She’s like you. You would like her, he declared as if I would invite her to dinner.
Some days at low tide the trapped sea anemones, dressed in blues and greens would fold themselves into the crevice between two rocks, waiting for the seafoam rush to rescue them. Once I laid on my belly in the sand, my wide-angle lens captured a crab’s eye view of the swells as they reached the shore. From that perspective they appeared as water impersonating mountains, too steep to climb. Each day as the sun protested the coming of night, I turned my camera in her direction as she threw her colors across the sky, but I saw only the horizon line tilted sharply into a diagonal, the earth spun off her axis.
She says your energy is everywhere in our house, as if I would appreciate her discernment.
I studied the water, the way it hugged a rock or spiraled in an eddy or threw itself into the air before falling back. I photographed the temporary etchings that the water left behind, searching for patterns in the golden September sand, at times parallel lines converging, then splitting, like the lifelines on my palm. My click of the shutter would stop time swirling for a millisecond, then it would collapse again, 26 years of yesterdays existing all at once. On warm summer days, I let the damp sand hold me, shimmying my shoulders down into it, the waves melodic and soothing.
I’ve been with you over half my life, he said, his face distorted, as if I had an expiration date.
Before all these words, I thought the gentle breeze here would lift me like a sail. But instead I huddled against the gale winds, my arms wrapped tightly around my coat, head down, as I searched for some rock that I would place in my pocket, rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger, wishing the weight of it could anchor me. Those same winds had littered a chaos of wood debris along the shore, branches and full tree trunks. Some industrious folks labored and transformed the scattered wood into rough shelters of teepees. I crawled into one, sat up to see if the world looked different. It didn’t.
I thought it would be different, he confessed with tears filling his eyes, that you and I would be friends…..two people who know each other better than anyone.
On my walk home I passed the estuary where in the dry season, water sat stagnant in the lagoon around the clumps of California bulrush. During the rainy months, water flowed from small inlets of the Ventura River, under the railroad bridge and carved deep gullies in the sand before it rushed into the sea. On the far side, along the walking path towards home that crossed the railroad tracks, a snowy egret landed unexpectedly in the overflow channel, leaving concentric ripples in the shallow water.
We don’t know each other at all, I replied.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Siaron James