And I have loved thee, ocean! And my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy
I wanton'd with thy breakers-they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror – 'twas a pleasing fear,
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane – as I do here.
-- The Dark, Blue Sea by Lord Byron
You have always lived within sight and scent of the sea. From the time you took your first breath, it has been a part of you, and you its creature. It took your mother when you were just a babe – lost at sea, they always said. But your Gran, she knew otherwise. “The sea takes care of its own,” she told you, “and when it’s time for them to come home, she takes them to her bosom and holds them tight.” You know that the sea took your mother home to stay.
The sea, she took your father, too, but not the same way. Your mother, she took and never let go, but your father, him she plucked away, but she always threw him back, for a day or a week or a month, until her tides took him again, always searching for the far horizon.
For as long as you can remember, the salt sea has been your home and your friend, your teacher and your tormentor. You played along her shores when you were small, and danced within her waves. You learned her moods and you learned respect as well as love. At times, she buoyed your weight as if it was nothing. And at other times, if you didn’t show her the proper respect, she bore you down into her depths, but even then, the sea always let you go. It was not yet time for her to bring you home to stay.
When they called that girl’s name in the town square, she was so frightened and alone and you so strong and so much more able to do what was needed to survive, or so you thought. You took her place and when it finally sank into your skin and your blood and your bones what you had done, when you saw your Gran’s tears, you ran. You ran to the salt sea and you didn’t stop running until it was over your head, dragging you under, except that even then, you could swim like no other.
Peacekeepers caught up to you. They pulled you from the sea and they took you away, so impossibly far away. You barely had time to say goodbye to your Gran, to promise her that you would try to come back, to come home.
They tried to take the sea from you. They washed your skin and your hair in soft perfumes and oils, but no matter what they did, the sea remained, a part of you, indivisible and insoluble. Those who did not understand, who could not understand, surrounded you, but even so, you were not alone, for there were those few with you who were themselves creatures of the sea: A woman like your mother, whom the sea had not yet taken home. A boy who could be your brother, who, in his way, thought he was and followed you to this soulless, sealess place, with its false colors and its false lights and its false life. And there was another boy, a little older, a boy who could be your everything and in whom the sea raged.
They left you on the edges of a caldera, its waters deep and dark, a cousin to your friend, your protector the sea, but there was nothing in it of salt. There was nothing in it of home.
You stayed with the pack, you and your would-be brother, until another boy tried to take your life, tried to slit your throat in your sleep. But you took his life instead, gave back to him his own knife and watching in horror as he bled out in the sand. You killed him, but your would-be brother told the others that it was he who did the killing and for that they killed him. You ran. You ran and you hid on the shores of that caldera and you wished for the salt of your home.
You knew that time passed, it must have passed, it had no choice but to pass. You grew thinner and weaker; you knew hunger, such grinding hunger, but never did you thirst. You dreamed, of the sea, of your Gran, of the boy who died and of the boy you killed, and you couldn’t stop dreaming, even when you were awake.
You thought it was a dream when the ground shook, when it shook so hard that you could not stand upright and the walls of dirt and stone that held back the waters of the caldera, deep and dark, broke. What started as a trickle soon grew into a watery juggernaut, sweeping away all in its path, you included.
Forever you tumbled in the cold and dark water, and you knew her as well as you knew yourself. You embraced the water, let her take you where she would. And her embrace led you again to your home, forever changed, but forever a part of you, the cold and dark of the saltless sea mingling with the warmth and light of the salt.
But it was not yet time for her to bring you home to stay.