(Listen as you read for a fuller experience.)
I drift away from the shoreline, letting the tame waves draw me further and further away with each gentle rise and fall.
I am facing the shore and all I have left behind: the high buildings, the changing lights, the car horns and the blaring music, the people streaming over concrete, stopping on corners, briskly crossing the middle of streets.
I have left you there, in the city. You stayed ashore. I asked you to come with me, into the darkness of the cold of the water at night, but you stood still and waved your hand “good-bye.”
Now there’s more and more water and darkness growing between us. I see your form that’s been the light of my life grow smaller and smaller as I float away. I can see your steady, anchoring hand still waving.
I continue drifting and look away from your diminishing figure to the scene behind you. I am far from the shore now, but the buildings still look tall. The lights blend together but their reflection gleams in the water around me. I can’t distinguish the cars, but I can hear their horns, their rushing into the woven streets.
I don’t know what I will miss more, you or the city. In that skyline that meets definite, full streets below there was endless possibility. In your firm, faithful form there was everything I ever wanted. Would I again find endless possibility and everything I ever wanted if I swam back to you now? Maybe their existence fades as I float away, none of us never to return.
The water is growing colder. I almost can’t feel my feet. But I keep moving backwards, easily now for the waves are calmer here, farther and farther from you.
The lights are fading and the sounds are almost gone. I can barely see your outline, standing, no longer waving, on the shore.
And then, from half a second to the next, you are gone. There’s no shape of you, no faintly-visible image if I squint. I cannot see you at all. You are gone.
My head feels light even as my heart turns to stone and heavily drops through my body to the unseen ground below. The cold and the dark of the water become a hot glare compared to the emptiness of not seeing you. I’m out here alone and you’re gone forever because I chose the shifting water over your sure arms.
My legs that were numb just a second ago begin to kick and my arms begin to flail. I am sinking down and rising back up in my haste and struggle to return to the shore. Which way is it? I turn my head, searching for a hint of directing sound or light.
I see a dim, dim glow. There it is, much farther than where I think it should be. Can I make it back? Maybe. Maybe I could.
Do I want to make it back?
I pause, my arms calm, my legs keeping me afloat through small, aimless kicks.
I turn forward to see growing light ahead. I turn backwards to see deeper black behind. I can imagine the unending freedom of that darkness. I can imagine the unshakable warmth of that light.
The water is smooth. There are no waves to pull me back and no waves to push me forward.
But I am losing strength. The cold is reaching my bones. My lungs are heavy and strained.
One more look back, one more look forward. A deep breath. And then I am kicking, stroking, pushing forward.
I want to get back.
My body is warming with each purposeful stride. The light ahead is growing. Now there’s a distinct outline of the shore. Now there’s a clear horn.
Closer now. So close.
I am here. This is where I could still see your figure clearly. I could see you, in all your grace and steadiness and calm, standing next to that empty bench, under that lamppost shining on nothing. The lamppost is shining on nothing.
I search earnestly, my eyes straining to pierce each shadow as I continue to move forward. You were there. Just some moments ago you were right there. Surely you haven’t gone away into the bustling city yet. How could you go so quickly? Did you tire so easily of watching me go?
But you’ll return. Yes, you’ll return. I will stay here, with darkness and cold fanned out behind me, until I see your form walk back to the shoreline, back to where your welcoming hand can reach down to grab mine.
I will wait. You will return.
(Song: “My Weakness,” by Moby)