Waiting for the Wave: Part 2
I was also waiting for this new place to wow me into awakening. Yet for the longest time a beach was just a beach. A mountain was a mountain. A view, from top or bottom, was just another view. Something inside me was stirring with disquietude. Weeks went by, and still nothing. I was enjoying myself, sure, but the internal wheels were churning, and my mind wasn’t content no matter how many lousy sun salutations I did.
One evening I was drinking liters of salt water. The tide was rolling out but the waves were still heavy. I couldn’t catch any waves. After a rough tumble getting pitted under the water, I gave up and made my way to the sand, where a few people were sitting on washed-up driftwood and watching surfers in the sunset. That used to be me, I thought, wishing I were out there with them. Watching the surfers look cool as fuck, even as they wipe out. I took several deep breaths and sat on my board. My arms were shaking.
A friend I had made some days prior was just coming up the beach.
What are you doing? he asked. I explained the dilemma. I’m terrified of deep water. I’m scared of big waves. It didn’t help that I had done a straight backflip with my board. I rubbed my rib-cage where it was sore. The tide was low; on one of my falls I had landed on a rock.
I was enjoying myself, sure, but the internal wheels were churning, and my mind wasn’t content no matter how many lousy sun salutations I did.
Look, he said, did you go in with the rip current?
No, I replied. I wanted the left-breaking wave.
Fuck the left break, he said. I also ride goofy. You need to get on a wave and just ride, left, right, doesn’t matter.
I nodded, chewing on my bottom lip.
You need to go out with the current, he said, gesturing to where the waves were crisscrossing in a confusing but smaller fashion. The water comes in and hits the beach right? It has to get back out there somehow. That’s the current. It’s sometimes messy, like today, but it will get you out there with zero effort. You might get slapped around a bit but you won’t be doing any more backflips.
He pointed to the sunset in the right-hand corner of the sky. It was a beautiful shade of pink and orange. You’ve got thirty minutes. Get out there, make it count. He squeezed my shoulder gently and told me he’d see me later at the bar. I nodded. He walked away. I contemplated leaving. I thought of the walk home over gravel and rocks, barefoot in the dark. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I might as well earn it.
Earlier that day I had opened a small pocket in my wallet and found a fortune from an old fortune cookie I probably hadn’t eaten because I hate fortune cookies. In Hebrew it read: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it can’t change you.” I sighed and picked up my board. After a few minutes getting slapped in the face by the ocean, I was out in the line along with the other surfers. I internally applauded myself for letting my feet dangle in the water as I sat on my board. Not too long ago this would have sent me into a sheer panic, complete with hyperventilation and flailing. I tried not to think of it.
In the dimness of the setting sun it was just a rolling black blanket underneath me and the little piece of fiberglass I was balanced on. The guy at the surf shop back home told me it would take three to six months before I could get on a hardboard. I had already proven him wrong. Six months until I could properly ride a wave, he said. He was wrong about that too.
The biggest lie they’ll ever tell you is that you can’t.
I smiled. Fuck that.
Earlier that day I had opened a small pocket in my wallet and found a fortune from an old fortune cookie I probably hadn’t eaten because I hate fortune cookies. In Hebrew it read: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it can’t change you.”
It reminded me of the guy who first took me out to surf. He had taken me out to learn the night before my birthday. We waded into the white foam waves, and I could hardly keep balance lying on the board, let alone stand. At some point he went out to surf a bit and said that he would be right back. It was around 7PM. We had both spent our usual days in the office. I waited for him in the waist-deep water. I remember watching him surf straight towards the shore and thinking how easy he made it look. I wondered if I could ever do that as I cheered for him from afar.
I remembered how, without him saying so, I knew he thought I’d never do it again. He instructed me with the halfheartedness of someone who believed only in what was out of reach. And I was not. I was beside him, hanging on his word with the excited ambition of someone who believed in whatever was right in front of them.
For weeks, being good enough to surf beside him was my sole source of motivation. When I woke up at 6AM to surf before my usual 10+ hours in the office, I had imagined he would be surprised at every wave I caught. When I stayed until it was dark out, I had imagined what he would think every time I wiped out and resurfaced, coughing up water, scrambling for my board, and at every time I boldly went for the waves that were probably too big for me. At every bruise and cut and scrape. And sometimes I had even thought of him when in the darkness beneath the wave I couldn’t find the surface, and my lungs grew heavy, when I’d rise only for another pounding wave to crash down before I could draw a full breath. All the times I thought, this is it, if I sleep down here, it will be hours before someone realizes I’m gone. My bloated body will flood with water and then sink like a used tire to the bottom of the sea. Will he remember?