What the hell are you doing?
“The water is warmer than the air, they say. In some cases they are wrong”
The water is warmer than the air, they say. It’s the wind that’ll get you afterwards, they say. Yet something has brought you to this point. That letter from the taxman yesterday, that bill you can’t pay, the boyfriend who was a bit of a dick to you this morning. Something told you that something had to change. And that something has brought you here, damp pebbles underfoot, watching the waves.
Along the beach, a sole man walks his dog, hat pulled firmly down over his ears. Besides them, there’s no one. The gulls squawk on the wind, lonely now the town’s only fisherman is out on the waves.
“What the hell are you doing?” they seem to ask.
Maybe this is one of those turning points, one you don’t realise until many years down the line. Maybe it’s masochism. You thank Poseidon that no one’s around to witness a grown woman doing stupid things on her own on a beach.
And so your feet take you down to where stones give way to sand gives way to sea. A final objection rises in your subconscious, is briefly entertained, then suddenly quashed as the water wraps itself around your feet, then your ankles, then your knees. It’s always at belly button level that you struggle most, when it feels like a thousand points of ice are burrowing into your bare skin. But now there’s no going back.
No one half-swims, do they? You weren’t going to come all this way (all of five streets and the width of the beach) to turn back now.
And so, ripping the proverbial plaster off in one go, you dive face-first into a world of tingling. It’s eyelids, it’s fingertips, it’s long-suffering toes.
Every inch of skin is a sparkler, shooting off a million stars, like your nerves have had their handbrake removed and are all having a party. Never before have you felt so much you in you.
The sea has a peculiar sound. The roar of the waves is dampened, the crashing pebbles softened. It’s a noise that comes from the base of the Earth’s throat, as if thunder were rumbling in a cave. This noise now fills your ears.
And as you break the surface, its over. You’ve done it. You walked into the sea as a burning woman. Now your fires have been extinguished, only peace remains.
They were right, you know. The wind does get you afterwards: an invigorating cold, a cold of pride, a cold to which your body says: “I got this.”
It’s a cold that’s stripped away all thought from your mind to leave just your nerves, all firing on all cylinders.
Quick dip, yes. But a first dip all the same.
Your toes haven’t even regained all their feeling before you nod to yourself, and decide you’ll do it again.
PH Mark Griffiths
TEXT Oliver Cable
February 24, 2021
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