Ocean. It seems I am always unprepared and overpowered when I meet you. When I first met you as a child, I was captivated by what seemed like a true living thing, limitless, frightening, beautiful, this completely unknown world opened to me, but you were only allowed to touch my knees. We went to the beach so infrequently no one seemed to think it important to learn how to paddle out past harsh waves and swim in the calmer waters, to not be afraid of the rush and roar, the push and pull of this relentless (fun) thing over which we had no control, that might go over our heads. No, no need to learn to swim there.
I met you many times with a friend on long-drive nights, carelessly trespassing on lands with signs that said “park closes at dusk” paying that no mind, only thinking with wild hearts, consequences be damned, it was an adventure! How unprepared we were to post bail on one of those very brief escapades. It hardly seemed worth it after a while.
I was unprepared and overpowered when I met you. I brought only myself and had no idea what would awaken while the world washed away in your high tide, then low. I was unprepared the day I realized that ghosts do exist. They are real. I know because I am one: My holy spirit became ensnared, then chose to moor itself upon damp sands forever. There is no other place but this one.
I was unprepared to meet you tonight, as our meetings have been these last few nights. My clothes cannot keep out the biting wind. Shouldn’t I know better by now how cold your breath will be and put something warmer on so I can walk the long way beside you? Still, it didn’t stop me from coming, obeying the need to see moonlight on little waves.
I’ve walked past many broken shells, whole shells, tangled weed and rocks in all shapes and shades over the years. There are few I care to pick up to keep for myself or share with another. Tonight there was a shell gleaming white under the moon, and I heard very clearly someone say “take this one.” I obeyed, tucking it in my pocket and making way to the oncoming waves, to visit just for a little while. On the return home I took the shell from my pocket and felt her smooth inside, then outer ridges. I cupped her in my hand and breathed her in deep: the perfume of the sea. Intoxicating, overwhelming, the power of this scent. The shell was new to shore, hadn’t been lying long days with her insides exposed, rotting in the sun, fit only for a hungry gull. She has a clean brine scent that no one can bottle believably. She is on the window sill now, and I know her perfume will disappear. She will not be pleased when I bathe her in bland water so that I may keep her on the sill. Or maybe she will be pleased that I chose to keep her close, hoping to hear some story she wishes to tell.
I was unprepared to write tonight, but when you catch the true scent of the perfume of the sea, how could I not?