The water was crystal blue. Small waves rippled and came in slowly, elegant and carefree. White birds flew overhead, mostly in silence. White sails glided by. The blue of the sky came down to meet the blue of the water at a hazy horizon. Light, water, and air swirled and gleamed and wafted purity to shore.
She stepped out of her way and came to the water. She passed the people running, walking, talking on their phones. She passed the couples and the clusters of teens on the cement stairs. She came reverently to the swaying blue and white. She came ready.
She came to the water and sat before it. She looked out to the blue, and then down to its very edge, down to where the duck crap pooled and the color was slightly green. Just beneath the dirty water she could make out large slabs of rock and concrete whose bottoms faded away into the dark deep. She felt a jab of fear but kept looking down. This was the water she had come for.
She was young, but she should have known better. The days had been bright and hot, but tonight was cool. The sky was starless.
She waited until her family was asleep and then carefully went down stairs and out the door, pen and notebook, Bible, and discman in hand. Now it was just her and the night.
She was young, but not too young not to know.
The darkness was coming in. If she had had eyes to see, she would have seen it swirling slowly to her, like a haze drifting forward over the ocean. The darkness – the depth – was coming.
She was happy with her music and words she believed were true. She was happy writing worlds that no one else could see. Her eyes were nearsighted but sparkling. She was safe in all she did not know.
But she should have known.
It was summer and she was hopeful. They had been out by the water all day and had gone in for a rest. Now they were clean and dry, except for her damp hair that blew wildly out the open window.
The city lights were nearing, speeding quickly on as they drove up and under and around the tangled highway. She could feel the energy of the city spill out to meet the energy increasing in her. The air and lights and cement and radio were churning and pulsing, matching the beat of her mind. She smiled and turned to look at his steady, un-churning face. This is what she had come here for.
They entered the city and crossed straight through it to reach the water once again. This was not the well-kept beach where they had spent the bright, carefree day amongst the usual summer crowd. Here the water met rocks and then cement. Here there were no crowds and every dim street light cast shadows. She was still carefree, but his clenched jaw and fists told her that he was not. She had made her choice and was now free to live in it. Here was where it was his turn to make his. She was hopeful.
She lifted her head at the sound of his voice. It had been years since she had heard that sound, but she recognized it instantly. It was the voice she had carried around inside her head when she was a child, before things had changed, back when she was still happy.
His voice was clear and shrill and earnest and as lovely as it had been to her young ears. She looked around for its source, hoping to see the face that had accompanied his voice and had crowded her mind all those years ago. Her small brown eyes searched for his bright blue ones. She couldn’t find them.
But his voice kept coming. She wished she could stretch open her ears and cram them full to the brim until every intonation, every note, every whisper and every yell spilled over to drip down her neck and cover her skin. She used to swim inside his voice as a child and now, 15 years later, she still wanted to sink down deep and lie at its very bottom.
She awoke to find pieces of her mind scattered around her. She had fallen asleep in the middle of the floor in the middle of the afternoon. It was dark now and she was cold. The wooden planks of the floor and the walls creaked in response to the wind outside.
She lifted herself up on her elbows slowly and looked around. At first glance it looked like all the pieces were there, but she’d have to count them one by one to be sure. In any case, it was good that they all seemed to be there. Too often these days she would wake up on the floor to find too few pieces remaining around her. Those days were not good days.
She dragged herself on her elbows to the small table close to the edge of the room. She reached up to turn on the lamp and picked up her notebook and a pen. Then she dragged herself back to the place in the middle of the room where she had been sleeping. Keeping her head as straight as possible, she sat up and crossed her legs. She reached out her hands flat against the floor and slid them forward until she came across the first piece. She examined it carefully, taking in the varying shades of purple and looking for any scratches or dents. She turned the piece in her hand several times checking for any roughness or chipped edges. It seemed to be intact. She smiled and bent down to jot in her notebook:
Thursday, March 17, 1998, 8:24 p.m.
1. Sincerity, purple — as new
There is nothing left to say
And I am blank.
The words had spilled out so freely,
Tumbling forward together,
Racing and shoving to form a thought.
There had been so many thoughts, for so many years,
Now all dried up in months.
She had sat for endless nights
Through endless notebooks
And endless made-up lives.
She had burned,
And singed and bled,
And had had the happiest nights of her life.
But now the words were silent
And her mind only echoed voices from the past.
I thrust out my hand,
Hold it over a flame.
As though it were a bad thing
To prefer fire
Over numbing ice.
I walk forward
Into an unknown,
Braving for once
To take a chance.
As though maturity meant
Being willing to stay
I come to the shore,
Fling away my clothes,
And walk unhindered into the waving waves.
I delve into the water,
For once fully alive:
Light entwined with darkness,
Life a play thing with death.
You sit dry on the shore
And wonder at my wanting to be cleansed of your