Sea and Sight
by Laure Canis
He was still observing the crabs, which were swept over, swept over by the flapping waves. The tiny and translucent beach crabs were skittering, almost flying over the sand, until they finally decided to dig their hole, the one place where they could feel secure. Every now and then, one of them would be caught in the receding drift, but only to emerge a few seconds later, silkier and cleaner than ever. So why bother hiding? On this early night, it seemed that nothing painful would ever happen, especially to those filled with wonder, who now belonged to this never-ending movement and were granted its protection.
But this little moment of peace did not last very long, as usual. Soon enough, his recurring thoughts had tracked him down. Even in his sanctuary, all alone, he could not help feeling like a failure. He had had quite a promising beginning, very bright and hardworking in school, and was probably the happiest child on earth when with his parents. With anyone he hardly knew, however, the difference was striking.
Everything began, I guess, in second grade, when the other little children envied him for his good results. They would see him coming home every evening, welcomed by a cheerful smile, whereas their parents were never proud of them – or at least this is what they imagined. Little Peter at seven years old was the perfect little boy. For now half of his life, he had known how to read and add numbers. He was not only an egghead, but demonstrated curiosity, a great deal too much, as he was always the starting center of the chattering group that annoyed Teacher Margaret. One day when she was in a particularly horrible mood, she sent him to the corner, shrieking at the top of her voice for him to shut up. Little Peter did not mind, though he was feeling this was some kind of an injustice. However, how the others looked at Little Peter really changed that day: they had mistaken Teacher Margaret’s cry of exasperation for a mark of disdain, and that was the excuse they all waited for to ignore him and finally be able to indulge in their own mediocrity without any remorse. Little Peter was struck on the next day by the silence that followed his questions and the whispering that went on behind his back. He had never been used to not being loved, and seeing that he wasn’t welcomed anymore in conversations, he decided to stay by himself to protect himself from suffering again. Teacher Margaret observed the change that had been triggered by her intervention and crawled under guilt as the years passed by. Peter had become the scapegoat and by fear behaved like one whenever new people came around. In a few seconds, she had broken this little boy who was now destined to become an associable young man, and she could never forgive herself. A few years later, she got the chance to partially relieve her soul unintentionally, when her own son began to talk. She needed someone to babysit him; Peter immediately sprung up to her mind. He would, without any doubt, be the one who would transform her son’s vivacity into intelligence. He did not, but the two got along very well, as different as they were. Stephan, who was now twenty and ten years younger than Peter, was his best and only friend.
He tried to relax and enjoy the present, his ideal vacation trip. Not having to comply with any social obligations, being allowed to stay by himself if he wanted to, this was his perfect idea of a holiday. He decided to focus on the water licking his toes, back and forth, back and forth, and of the feeling of peace it inspired him. But he was soon annoyed by some far-away and high-pitched cry drowned by the resounding waves. As it drew closer, something queer happened: this gait, this crunching of bare feet on sand, this breathing, he knew it all. How could he have not thought of it?
Stephan and another conquest…softly accompanying her movements, he was almost unnoticed, but remained the master of the game, the secret conductor. He didn’t do it with an ulterior motive, he was just his normal self, and had the ability to make anyone comfortable in his presence, magically awakening their spontaneity. He didn’t mind it that Stephan met new people. It was the whole purpose of the little break, for both of them to finally have the opportunity to do what they desired and what was constantly stymied by everyday life and everyday obligations. Still, at this precise moment, he resented him. He resented him for showing him again, and unwillingly, yet another of his failures. If he could not bond with any other than Stephan, how could he possibly imagine seducing a girl? Slightly nauseous and not relaxed at all, he got up and started his way back to the bungalow. The delighting freshness of the water on the soles of his feet had suddenly felt like bare and frozen rancor, and it made him shiver bitterly. Step by step, as he drew away from one of his worst nightmares, the brightness and energy of the tropical stars heated up his toes and stretched up, reaching the whole of his body with pleasant warmth, lighting up his heart. He felt at harmony with those who welcomed him into this world, with these millions of little eyes, of innocent creatures full of acceptance. Looking up, he followed the flight of a bat, simple shadow over the friendly moon. In every corner, there was an enthusiastic rush for life. As he trod upon the crisping leaves, he listened to the crabs’ scurrying. There were so many of them, and each phrase, played at a different pace and touch added up with the others amounted to an extraordinary symphony, the symphony of life he reflected. He was not alone anymore, escorted by his valuable companions, whose steps followed his. He could almost visualize someone walking next to him, a real creature who he would share experiences and inner impressions with. With no intention of hiding anymore, he stopped for a moment to rest and savor the harmony. His soul was at peace and he could finally close his eyes without fear of painful visions.
A few moments later he was woken up by gentle footsteps, approaching the coconut tree he was lying over. At first he thought it was Stephan who had worried about him and who had gone out to search for him, but the footfall was far lighter. It seemed that the person almost did not touch the ground, so subtle was the crack of leaves with each of her steps. Still, he could feel her overwhelming presence. Her trail smelt of sweetness, and, although elusive, filled the air with courage and blind optimism. For, as soon as he saw her, he was struck by her beauty and by the happiness she spread around her.
A young heron, she was quite surprised of attracting so much attention and admiration. If you looked closer, little drops on her long fluffy feathers glowed into the moonlight, revealing the secret night fishing she had indulged in. They were glittering like jewels, and circled her long and gracious neck like a diamond necklace. However precious and elegant she looked like, Peter hesitated. He had been used to being hurt by those he loved, and dared not take a step forward. Her pointed beak still shiny with water glinted at him like a menace. Taking advantage of his indecision, the heron calmly opened her wings, and shook them gently so as to make sure they were completely dry. A white creature with its arms stretched to him, she had the shape of an angel. Without further reluctance, Peter reached out to the heron, and took her hand in his.
Caressing her back, he was caught up in a swirl of pure white that seemed to have no end, until, at last, they were taken somewhere fresh and breezy. He was in such a state of ecstasy that he had the feeling of floating on air. More precisely, this was a strange blend of both ecstasy and sheer serenity, as he was still holding her hand. And off they flew, over the roofs of New York: a few movements of breaststroke, and they seemed to be advancing as quickly as if pushed by a gush of wind. Here the little apartment where he lived, there where Stephan lived, and there, his office. He had forgotten all about it in the rush of the moment. He wondered how the others went on without him while he was on holiday. He had the feeling that he was missed, but he knew why: he simply was good at his job, a marketing analyst, at understanding the clients’ behavior. Such as pity that he couldn’t apply any of that in his personal life. And Emily, how was she doing? Was she missing him at all? Of course not, how could he even contemplate the thought of it? He had to return to reality, though he was not sure what was real anymore. He soon had no memory of his doubts, as the heron suddenly clasped his hand. He turned his head to the right to meet her eyes, and then, he knew.
He opened his eyes, and looked at Stephan, holding his hand.
“What the hell happened to you?” he shouted. He was still trembling, like in panic. “I have been awfully worried about you. I have tried everything to wake you up!”
“Huh?” Peter was still drowsy and was trying to figure out what had happened.
“What were you doing all alone sleeping under a coconut tree? What if a coconut had fallen right on your head? Would be a little ironical to die like that, wouldn’t it?”
“Come on, Stephan, what is happening to you? It was nothing. I just had a long, deep sleep and now I feel very good.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to have sounded so smothering, Peter, really. But it’s just that I sensed something was the matter with you, something very important. Just didn’t know if it was good or bad. I was mistaken. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, I’m glad I can count on you. And I’m sorry I ruined your date…”
Stephan left him a few minutes later. His eyes still plumbed with sleep, he went over the dream in his head. Strangely enough, he had no intention of going back to sleep to continue living his dream. He felt at peace with himself, as if all his internal struggles had been removed without leaving any scar. He was now anew, a fresh person with no more past and no more painful memories. He would have to make new happy memories for himself, and now he knew exactly what he wanted to do. It may seem trivial as a start, but he knew it would change everything. For years now, he had wondered if he should experience scuba-diving, but every time the thought had crossed his mind, it had paralyzed him with fear. He hadn’t known why, and since there were still many fish and corals that could be seen just snorkeling, he hadn’t bothered.
Now he was ready. Ready for this, ready for more. On the same day, he took an appointment with the instructor for a dive in the early afternoon.
His heart throbbing with excitement, he slipped on the wetsuit. It was really for the tradition: everyone would admit that when the water’s temperature is at 85 degrees, there is no need for a wetsuit. Nevertheless he put it on with application, and let the instructor guide him on to the coral reef.
It wasn’t that the sight was that different. Roughly, there were the same animals, with a few nuances, more varied colors, and a few species that were rarely seen on the surface may have been a little more frequent. The real difference was himself, and how he perceived the underwater world. He had changed, and he noticed it for real when the turtle came.
The turtle, the diver’s enchantment.
He had already seen her before, but this time he experienced it. The smoothness of the shell, the sharp yet soft look, the periodic rise to the surface for air, the turtle swimming. He was overcome by the beauty of the creature, and how this heart and body responded to it. Distantly, the heron perched herself on the long stick of wood marking the narrow to the ocean, and observed.
The dive having come to an end, he slowly swam back to the shore, and lied on his back, his arms stretched out to the sky, closing his eyes. He was a little out of breath and took deep inspirations, achieving the deepest relaxation he had ever reached. This time, the sea was perfectly still, but he counted on it. He felt ready to cope: a new self, a new beginning. Closing his eyes, he waited, until he finally reached the ultimate darkness of nothingness, a new blur in his mind.
This time he was really awake. In the blink of a moment, he had grasped it all.
A still light in his eyes, he was swept over.
30 ans, Feels vulnerable. Successful in whatever he has chosen (esp job) but not in private relationships. Discrepancy bet Cartesian logic that dominated his life and the abyss he was left with when by himself. Liked one girl, but never managed to speak to her for fear of failure. Had been used by many, just to have sex: promised to himself she would never be that naïve again. Bec up to now, failure never happened to him and parents had put all of their hopes in her. Job : marketing research analyst, has considerable surpluses. Strange because is an expert in other people’s behavior, in psychology, but has no social life. Hasn’t managed to take a step further. His money has allowed him to have wonderful memories of paradise islands, he always went with his best friend, who was 10 years younger, qui enchaînait les conquêtes sans se poser plus de questions que ça. Amour des animaux < > humains.
Stephan, Emily, Peter.
Rencontre Stephan qui se balade au bord de la plage avec fille -> toujours même chose. Description plage désert une fois que parti : mer calme comme oasis inacessible, mirage. Vent fort, reçoit sable dans la figure.
Craquement de branches de cocotiers tombées. Atm menaçante, ms qqch familier. Cœur battant à toute vitesse. Rencontre héron : observation de loin. Description humaine et féminine du héron. S’approche et lui caresse le dos meme si danger d’être mordu. Fades away. Rêve : vole avec le héron au dessus de New York, se tient à sa patte. Se réveille au cri du héron, en tenant la main de Stephan.
Matin mer très calme, d’huile. Initiation à la plongée. Vue du héron passer attraper un poisson. Apprécie poissons qu’il voit. Après plongée un peu essouflé s’allonge au bord de la mer, le corps à moitié dans l’eau. Cri du héron retentit, de plus en plus fort. Swirl in his mind.
Mer calme, plus de va et vient. Jour : plongée.
.....................................................this story was by Laure Canis