I am absolutely terrified of the ocean. I can distinctly recall being at the Outer Banks with my boyfriend at the time, him coaxing me to come out into the beautiful water, not that Ocean City, MD water; this water was blue, less polluted than other beaches I had been to in the past. I stood on the shoreline, digging toes into the sand, screaming NO in my head. God, it was hot... In desperation I approached the water cautiously like a snake ready to strike at any moment and immersed myself up to my knees.
“Come on, Lauren! You’ll be fine, I promise!”, my boyfriend yelled, swimming effortlessly in the ocean water, totally at ease with the fact something eerie could be lurking right below his treading legs. I saw something creating dark shadows below his body; my imagination was running rampant, but neither myself nor anyone else would be able to convince me it was just my mind running freely.
Oh hell no, I will not budge. No, no, no.
Getting impatient, he swam to shore. Once he was close enough to see my face, tears welling in my eyes, his expression changed from impatience to pity.
“Aw, don’t be scared. Come on,” he said gently, reaching his hand out to meet mine that rested stock still against my side.
Reluctantly, I allowed him to lead me out into the deeper, darker water, first to my stomach, then gradually up to my chest. The waves were smoother out in the deeper depths, but I still was not calm. I thought about how animals can sense when someone is fearful, how if a shark or some unknown sea creature were nearby, it would sense with his animal instincts that someone in the water was terrified.
My boyfriend looked at me, both of us face to face, treading the salt water, the tips of our toes barely missing the sandy floor, his hand still clasping mine. “See,” he said with a smile, “not so bad after all”.
I forced a grin; “Yes, you’re right. You can let go of my hand now.”
He released my pale fingers from his own. With animal-like quickness, I made my way back to shore, moving at double the speed due to the powerful waves washing me in.
I spent the rest of the vacation up to my knees in the salty water, not daring to go past the invisible threshold I created for myself. I was completely content to spend several hours building an epic sandcastle, only to walk back covered in sand to the beach house, having refused to wash myself in the ocean because that would have called for another deep sea trek.
God only knows why I fear the ocean. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a past life creeping into my memory; perhaps I was a sailor who died at sea, or a woman who could not swim and drowned. I know when I was still in diapers, or so my mother tells me, we were at Ocean City vacationing. I played in the foaming surf, ignorant of the fact a towering wave was rushing at me until it was only a few seconds away. Baby survival instincts kicking in, I clung to the closest human being I could find, which turned out to be a poor sixteen or seventeen year old boy, who stood paralyzed in shock as to why a baby would be hugging his teenage leg.
Although the idea of swimming in the ocean gives me goosebumps, I do love the beach. Waking up early in the morning, walking barefoot along the surf is one of my all-time favorite vacations. It is so symbolic to me to watch the footsteps I just tread disappear behind me in the powerful surf that swallows them. And there is nothing that could rival the sunrise or sunset on the choppy ocean surface; the blinding sun reflecting its rays, almost as if to portray that it is too beautiful to be seen by the direct eye.
I’m hoping this summer to go back to the Outer Banks. I love how non-touristy it is. Ocracoke Island, in all of its artsy glory, is such a wonderful place to visit, minus the mosquito bites that swelled to softball size on my legs (KILLER MOSQUITOS!). While in Hatteras, I climbed the tallest lighthouse in the nation (with one or two breaks along the way; but what a view at the top!)
In my first ever blog post, I posted pictures of the trip, if you are interested.