I liked to joke she was Jesus Christ and that love, was water.
Always walked upon but careful not to dip. I asked her why, she told me she was young once. Naïve once, that she would put on a cute little polka dot bikini and swim confidently in pools. That on Friday nights, she and her friends would strip and go skinny dipping in a fountain at the park around the corner. On days that felt too long, she would burn scented candles and play soft music while lying in her bathtub in warm water, allowing it to slowly envelop her. That is the love she knew, the water that was fun, soothing and calming all at once. A lazy pool, a secret fountain and a relaxing bath.
She sat me down, her face stripped of an expression, and told me about the first time she saw an ocean. A water body so large, a love so deep. She looked far into the horizon and tried to comprehend its vastness. “The waves teased my toes, I’d curl them, but they got wet anyway” she said. “He wanted me, apologetically.” The ocean has a sound, just close your eyes and listen. It’s a romantic invitation.
“And with a smile that was larger than life itself I stepped in, slowly losing sight of the shore” she recalled. She didn’t care, he made her happy. The water was cold initially, parts of him that weren’t easy to accept. But the longer she stayed, the warmer it got. The ocean was very quiet, and she allowed the water to wrap itself around her.
“Loving him was like that – engulfing, overpowering. And I liked it” she continued. I smiled at her, she had a look I’ve seen countless times, one of a woman in love. A look that says ‘Let me make you mine, and I’ll change you forever’
She made the water hers, kissed each wave, and had it coming back for more. His love always came back. Every time a ship came by and offered to take her home, she refused. “I didn’t know what they were trying to rescue me from” she said shaking her head. When she’d doubt their love, she’d float on her back and look at the sky his eyes had to offer. In them, she saw assurance.
The ocean was where unpredictability is born. One minute it invites you and makes you feel like you’re one with it. Calm, welcoming with its arms wide open. But like a great stage actor, it can instantly switch. Explode with its stormy tempers, flinging you around, attacking coastlines and breaking down islands, further pushing away any sight of the shore. “His love really was like swimming in the middle of an ocean” she nodded. “It was beautiful, except he changes, and then you start to drown”
I hugged her, drowning isn’t an experience that one would like to recall, but she insisted. “Suddenly the beauty of the ocean started to disappear. His face looked less like a promise and more like betrayal. The salty water began to taste like tears, was I drowning in my own tears?” she asked. I said no, I reminded her ocean water has always been salty, it’s her perception of it that was changing. Love had always been kind to her, but she was realizing its duality, and he was going to help her do it.
“Once he left, I stopped swimming. I couldn’t move a single muscle in my body. I almost let the water take me over.” She recalled. I told her about how I was told drowning is a peaceful experience, that you close your eyes and slowly numb till you become one with the darkness and silence around you. “It is, but only if you’ve accepted your death” she assured me. “But I wasn’t able to accept anything just yet”
She looked away, as if an image of him suddenly appeared. Her face first showed disgust and then a hint of sadness. “The first thing that hits you is fear, fear that comes with the realization that something has gone terribly wrong. But fear alerts your senses and makes them sharper, forcing you to completely experience what is happening” she continued. “All I could see was greens, blues, grays and finally blackness. I realized I was underwater. I could see memories of us, his eyes, the lines on his palms and finally, an image of him walking away.”
I sat there, silent. “I just wanted to stop feeling like I was drowning……constantly. I panicked, screamed and screamed so that someone could hear me. But my throat began to tear as sharp cold water flowed in. I waved and beat my hands and legs in all directions. Nothing happened. I was suspended in layers of water and every time I tried to hold on to something, more water slipped through my fingers. No one was able to help me or stop me from feeling this way. Where was he?” she asked, rhetorically.
“I could feel my lungs fill up with the cold water. I was fighting my own instinct to breathe. Doing things to delay what was happening to me. Cut off contact, loose the mutual friends, avoid all reminders. But there’s only so much you can delay the inevitable.” She paused. I just sat there, can one really console the broken-hearted?
“I finally just gave up. Took one breath, allowed the water to fill me completely. I allowed the breathing to stop. I allowed the darkness to eat me. As I closed my eyes for what I thought was the last time, all I felt was cold.” She recalled. “Cold, and alone” she added.
“It’s a miracle you made it out alive, huh?” I said, my voice as upbeat as I could possibly make it.
She smiled. “Ever since then love became an ocean of happiness I am unable to baptize myself in”
“Like Jesus Christ” I added.