a man returns to the sea. i wrote this for my english class
|The sea had been my home for as long as I could remember; while I was kept on land, I found myself drawn to the waves and the sand. My family had been amazed by my prowess in the water, even from a very young age. I would swim and float and dive, all of my own volition; it was very rare for anyone to have to teach me these things. I would catch fish and was ostracized when I tried to eat them raw. I never wanted to wait for them to cook!
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve always wanted to live in the sea.
My parents were supportive to a degree; after all, a human can’t exactly live underwater. They’d take me to the beach and let me swim until I was tired of it, at which point I gladly complied with their wishes to go back home. But I’d ask to go back the next day, and the next day, and the next day after that; eventually, they’d grow tired of me asking, but the response was always different depending on who I asked.
My father would balk and adamantly refuse to take me. He’d humor me sometimes, but most of the time, he’d flat-out deny me the trip.
My mother, on the other hand, would take me no matter what. She’d swim with me sometimes, but other times, she’d stare into the open ocean with a sense of longing in her eyes. Even as a small boy, I’d felt that wistful desire to return to the sea in her eyes.
My parents were never exactly healthy. My mother was withdrawn and passive, while my father pushed everyone around. He’d invite his own family over constantly; while they engaged in their camaraderie, my mother would sulk or stare out the window towards the sea.
It wasn’t till I was older that I learned the origin behind this desire, the crucial point of my life and my mother’s life.
The harbor seals at the beach would sometimes try and approach me, or my mother, but my father would chase them off each time, with vitriol in his voice. He was cruel to them, and I saw it in their eyes. He hated them, but kept their pelts in his room. As I grew older and saw the seals more, they seemed to have a revulsion directed towards him. Whenever they saw him, they’d bark and bare their fangs, growing onerous and hateful towards my onerous and hateful father.
The days I visited with my mother were the days I got to speak to the seals. I didn’t speak their language, but I felt a connection to them; they lived in the sea and on the land at the same time, just like me. They were inept on land yet deft in the water; I respected them, and they respected me in return. I wished I could swim with them, but my human body was my weakness.
When I was just thirteen, I asked my father why he hated the seals.
“They’re loud and good-for-nothing,” he told me. “I don’t want them anywhere near my family.”
“Then why do you keep those pelts on the wall?” I asked.
My father hesitated, and glanced at the floor before looking back up at me. “You’re too young for that answer.”
“They’re just seal pelts, though.”
“Well, I…” He stumbled over his words, and a dull rage started to grow on his face. “Get out of my room! If you want to live with those animals, go on and do it!”
While he had always been a cantankerous man, I had never seen him like this. He spurned all of my attempts to ask him more, and when he was tired of me, he hit me across my face with the back of his hand, leaving a mark that caught my mother’s eye.
She looked at me with such horror in her eyes, I felt it in my own soul.
“Oh, my sweet, what did he do…?” she asked me, holding a cool hand to my injured face. That soft voice she spoke in was soothing, with a raspy tone and an accent I could never place.
“He hit me,” I responded, “he hit me because I asked him too many questions.”
“Did you ask him about the seals?”
Her shoulders slumped, and she stared at me with a tear in her eyes. “Honey, you must not ask him about the seals, or the pelts.”
“Why not? Why does he hate them?”
She was silent for a moment, but getting an answer from her was facile. “The seals speak to us, and he doesn’t like that. He doesn’t want us to go home.”
I was taken aback. “What do you mean?”
She smiled, a sad, nostalgic smile. “We aren’t like him, dear; we are selkies, people of the sea.”
My entire life to that point made sense. The love for the sea, the connection to the seals, the feeling of not being in the right world made sense to me now.
“He took my pelt from me when I wasn’t even your age, and I’ve been forced to be on land ever since,” she continued.
Hatred swelled in my heart. My father, who had always been loud and cruel and unpleasant, had been keeping my mother in this home for so much of her life! She wasn’t supposed to be tractable and acquiescent, but he had been holding her hostage.
“We have to get them back,” I told her.
Her eyes widened in horror, or perhaps joy, but she was clearly skeptical of this unformulated plan. “He’d never let us in his room.”
“We could wait until he leaves, or draw him out of his room…” I thought aloud, thinking of how to get him away from the pelts for just long enough to grab them and escape from out the window.
“I have an idea,” my mother said. “I’ll lure him out, and you’ll get the pelts back.”
I nodded. Today, that man would be held accountable for his years of sins.
I hid in my room. My mother called to him from the living room, and I heard the door to his room open but not shut. He had the tendency to leave his door open, thinking no one would ever enter without him in there.
Today, he was wrong.
I snuck out of my room, creeping quietly into his room. The pelts, one large and one small, had been hanging on the back wall for as long as I could remember. With unusual cunning, I undid the lock on the window, letting it open as quietly as I could. Slowly, but surely, I removed the pelts from the wall, listening to my mother blabber on about nothing to keep him distracted for as long as she could.
I rolled the pelts up in my arms and lifted up the window as far as it would open. I knew I couldn’t hesitate for any longer, and let myself fall from the house onto the hard ground below. I landed with a thud, but got up and ran to the front door.
My father left to examine the sound, and I could hear him screaming aspersions from inside. My mother opened the door, quickly urging me to run towards the sea. I knew where it was, though it was far from us; we could hide and make our way to the ocean without him finding us.
It took a while, but eventually, the two of us made it to the ocean where we belonged. The seals I had grown to love were laying on the rocks, and some hopped over to us inquisitively.
My mother and I donned our pelts for the first time in forever, and with the seals behind us, returned to our home in the ocean.