"...the grief crushes down, wave after wave...drowning in you is inevitable."
|With a sharp left, my rambling walk gains deliberate purpose.
The beach. I'll go to the beach. It's not too far; just through that little overgrown path behind the neighborhood.
What started as an attempt to take in a sunny, March day--and work in a little exercise--has unintentionally turned into some kind of memorial, a plea for my mind to hold on and remember all I can about you. As I pass houses and peeling street signs, it's happening. I'm walking faster now, as if desperate for the memories to bleed back into my consciousness. I pass that dirty, sagging house you tried to get fixed. Nothing has changed; they still have broken-down cars on their lawns and a tarp for a roof. I smile at how mad you'd be to know that.
And there's the path: set back from the road, nestled between houses. The rickety, wooden bridge crosses over that little brook, which is running at a steady trickle today. It rained all night.
As I cross the bridge into the thick of the wooded path, I walk faster. Everything is dead and still today, as if holding its breath until spring. Walking on, I'm hit from all angles: summers picking raspberries along the trail, you and your weed-whacker beating back the brush so I could sneak into the beach.
I dodge mud and broken glass; I feel like I'm chasing you now, racing you to the beach. I'm no longer trying to remember you; I'm trying to find you, find where you've gone.
Are you here, among the dead, dry leaves? The gray, twisted, overgrown trees? Are you here where you took me every summer, where you cleared a path?
Through the mud and brambles, I see the field that separates me from the sand. A little old man has turned it into his own private driving range today, and I'm apparently interrupting it. I walk quickly through the crossfire, and he resumes his swing. With grass now under foot, I can hear the distant swish of the Sound*, meeting the beach and receding again and again.
On the other side, I just...stop. I look back over the soggy field I've just traversed. Are you here, mingled in with the green, where we used to picnic and play? Or are you in the open, blueness above, with the ospreys and hawks you loved to watch through your binoculars? I remember how you'd call to me from the porch to show me the new nests in early spring, the males dive-bombing the cove for the first schools that braved the chilly inlet.
The grass and dirt are peppered now with sand and shells here and there; a rusty barbecue and a sagging picnic bench to my right, and outdoor showers straight ahead.
I'm getting closer.
One more left, and I hit the sandy, gravel path. I crunch, crunch my way onward. Soon, I'm flanked by the tan, grassy dunes and wetlands; the simple, delicate beauty of this habitat you loved has evaded me until today. AsI stop along the way and catch the first scents of salt in the wind, I know I have found you.
You are here, where rivers of dark, icy blue cut through pale blonde, where the sea breeze whips and bends the reeds every which way. You are here, in the salty sky streaked with clouds and dotted with gulls. As the rhythm and crash of the waves get louder, I feel you deeper and deeper. I fill my lungs with the sea-spayed air as the Sound comes into view. You are here, in the ebb and flow of the tide, in the massive pink bluffs of granite you climbed with me: arms open, ready to catch if I slipped.
You are here in the white expanse of the beach, the mud-like sand at the shore where we'd sink in our feet and let the water lap at our ankles. You are here in the icy waves you taught me to ride as Mom watched nervously from her beach chair. You are here in the grittiness of the sand against my wet feet, the chill of the churning ocean, the smoothness of the salt-stained rocks you skipped effortlessly across the surface.
Here, the grief crushes down, wave after wave; each breath seems heavier and harder than the last, and drowning in you is inevitable. The swell of emotion rises in my chest and throat; it's as if I'm suddenly seeing you again, as if you never went away. I see a young man at the other end of the beach. He's walking with a little bundled-up baby girl who toddles along, arms outstretched for balance.
I say a prayer to whoever's-out-there that she gets as much time as I did.
* Long Island Sound; body of water between the coasts of Connecticut and Long Island.