Eros, Poseidon and Me
Darkness, darkness be my pillow
...Jesse Colin Young
There was no place else to go. No one to call. I had tried the one or two who might help, just take the edge off, maybe keep me from going over it. I opened a bottle, said a prayer, waited. I looked at my dog. He knew. Animals are smarter than men. On the surface they look like animals. Cut them open and you won't find bones and meat, just one big heart taking up their entire insides. He looked at me with real dog eyes, knowing, been-there-it-hurts-like-a-motherfucker-don't-it eyes. But he didn't try and lick me or curl up at my feet. No, the little bastard just stared, like he was trying to soak some of the pain right out of me, absorb it into his own hardened dog heart.
A precise emotion seeks a precise expression and I had only two options left. I put an old 3/2 mm wetsuit in my backpack, tossed some wax and the rest of the wine in the front basket, grabbed the first board out of the rack and tucked it under my arm. I don't remember coasting down the hill on my bike or scrambling down the bluff as the sun left its mark on the hellish day. I couldn't tell you if it was a beautiful sunset or a cloudy dusk. All I knew was that it was getting dark, dark in the Western sky, dark in my mind, dark all the way around. And I had to get in the water.
Paddling out I began to notice things I hadn't before: the way cold water seeps in around your knees before your waist, the way the little wake comes off the tip over your board in angular V's, going somewhere, no where -- like me. I noticed how the shallow spots on the reef created circular boils on the fast dropping tide, pulling water, energy and life from its center back into some black hole beneath the surface; a place from which that life and water were born. And belonged in the end.
There was only one other guy out, one other surfer in the fading light, probably hoping for one last wave of a two hour session. He only needed a ride in. I paddled right by him, avoiding his stare. He was nothing. No, that's not what I meant to say. He was another human being and I didn't know shit about him. Maybe he just got out of the joint and hadn't surfed for 3 years. Maybe he was a trustafarian who surfed every day just to avoid the boredom of excess. It didn't matter. On the surface, I feigned indifference. He knew it.
Out of one corner of my eye I saw that the sun had now left this day's sky. Out of the other I saw a big set start to well up on the outside reef. How far had this wave traveled only to finally release its energy here in 6 feet of black, kelpy salt water. And then lie down and die.
I paddled hard, spun at the last minute and dropped in, one with the falling lip. At the bottom, following some innate instinct, I just laid it over hard and felt the board bite deep into the face, anger and tension in some primal battle with regret and despair.
The wave in front now feeling the rocky bottom, standing up, begging to envelop, a child bringing home a picture made at school. "Look, Dad. Look at this picture I made for you!"
Look, Son, look at this wave I made for you. Inside now, an absence of feeling in my heart, darkness at the wave's circular core. But it is a place of hope and I strained towards a faint light, the glimmer of some left-over sunlight reflecting off the cliffs shining its final rays on some path as I squirted out onto a broad nurturing shoulder.
Paddling back out I glanced over at a sea lion who looked at me, oddly, as if to say, "I can do that." And I know he can, so much better than I.
The dull opaque sky had lost all reflection. And I surfed by feel, wondering what it would be like to get in a fight with a shark. I did not fear them any more. More dangerous to live in the land of humans, walking around erect, visible on terra firma, dangerous.
And I think what an interesting way to die, to lose a fight with an animal who is made to kill, as described on page 24 in the next day's obits. "A killing machine," they would say, "that came from beneath the ocean's deceptive surface to rip the man's leg off." The autopsy would say that "he had an enlarged heart." It wouldn't say "broken." A fitting death, I thought. Still, I would fight like hell.
The night grew into itself, stars and moon guiding that cathartic play. And sometime after midnight a change occurred. I want to believe that shit about truth at first light but I feel it is the night, the absence of light, the melding of one day into the next that opens the veins of raw knowledge. And I was bleeding now out every pore. It felt good. Necessary. I am living outside of Man's Law of Common Sense. But inside of the Laws of Nature. Making my own truth, facing my own demons: I am surfing.
Almost imperceptible at first, I begin to notice it first in the waves I choose and the way I surf them. Then in my relationship with the ocean surface, the way my board sits gently upon its sheet of smooth black ice, the way my hands softly make little circles on its skin. And then with my self, the way I feel towards my rightful place among these elements.
I cannot see the advancing swell but I sense something gathering up, waiting for me -- if I have the courage. I paddle hard for the horizon, the lower stars blocked by this advancing swell. Harder now, pulling at still water, onward to meet Her. I do not think I can tame Her. I used to think of a wave as a plate glass window waiting for a brick. But now I have to climb upon Her back and shed my hardened sorrows with each slice of my fin and glided movement of my board.
When She finally comes, She is like no wave I have ever ridden -- big but not unwieldy, imperfect in shape and texture, Her symmetry uneven. Her unmasked sensuality pulls me like a fluid magnet, begging to mount Her. An irresistible indulgence without relevance to time or space.
She carries me like no other wave has. Yet I feel such awe and inspiration and gratitude that I cannot even stand to ride but only lie down, prostrate, my face close to Hers, our breasts and pounding hearts in sync, my skin wanted to meld with her fluid surface but shielded by my glass vehicle, absorbing the energy, frozen in some temporal epiphany. Finally, rising from the depths, I ride until my fins hit the sandy shore and I stay there, motionless in the shallows, the moon reflecting the phosphorescent foam and my thoughts.
After a long while, I stand up, grab my board and then, knowing its place, push it back out to sea, not bothering to watch its journey. The tide will deliver it to another fortunate son and he will find his way, as will I.