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The Ocean's Grasp
Despite occuring 5 years ago, and the rest of the memories from this vacation faded; this day has stuck with me all this time.
The ocean, a symbol of serenity and peace; yet at the same time one of violence and fear. I always steered to a bit more of an extreme - a happy one. I avoided thinking anything negative of the ocean and the sheer amount of fun I could have splashing around in the waves and boogie boarding with my dad and brother. I always counted on seeing my mom as I rode the wave back to shore, waving to me, or pointing her camera right on me. A stupid big smile was always plastered across my face.
Alabama had been fun so far, so I had been practically bursting at the seams when I realized today was our ocean day! Gulf Shores had become my favorite vacation spot with all the fun stuff we’d done so far, so I knew the ocean wouldn’t disappoint.
As soon as we parked, I was almost jumping with excitement. My walk had a joyful bounce to it as I rushed my dad to grab the boogie boards so we could quickly get into the ocean. My heart swelled with pure, childish, excitement as we sped to the water. I was antsy to get into the water so I hurried my parents with my sunscreen as well as the strap to secure my wrist to my board.
I loved my board, I thought it was the cutest board there ever was. It was tiger stripes, but where it would’ve been orange, it was instead a pink/purple ombre of color, my two absolute favorite colors at the time. Whenever I thought about being in the ocean I always knew my boogie board would bring so much more fun! Even without my board I could have a great time. I loved swimming around and seeing if there were any little fish darting around near my feet. I could’ve spent hours upon hours in the ocean; feeling the tide rise and fall, hearing and seeing all the ocean animals, reveling in their beauty. Almost dissolving into the sand, becoming one with the ocean was a dream of mine, an impossible one, but a dream all the same.
Usually, when I managed to catch a wave, it didn’t take me all the way to shore, due to the fact I had to be a ways out in order to get the good, rideable waves. Whenever I wasn’t totally to shore, I just rushed back out towards the area I had been before hopping on the wave; most of the time not all of us caught the same wave, so we were pretty staged apart. Half the time my dad didn’t manage to get one, so he just kept waiting until a wave, up to his standard, would come; which often took quite a while. This was perfect, because when my brother or I caught a wave, we knew where we could head back to right away, no rough guessing, which often resulted in us drifting farther away from my mom’s spot on the beach.
Since I was young I couldn’t go quite as far out as my dad or brother, who each had way more than 4 inches of height on me. But, of course, I didn’t really abide by the depth rules my dad had established when we first arrived. I ventured as deep as I so pleased, my dad wasn’t exactly ecstatic about my defiance of his ‘waist deep rule.’ Despite my reluctance to follow his rules, I was rather reasonable when it came to how high the water got. I rarely went deeper than my waist; not for any matter of safety, simply because it was a hundred times harder to jump and catch a good wave if the water was higher than my waist.
Despite the fact I’m the best swimmer in my entire family, I still wasn’t supposed to be that deep. My brother waded his way over to me. Next to him I felt so miniature, like an ant standing next to the Eiffel Tower. The waves were much bigger out here, and I was rather content simply wading with them or diving through them as they crashed. I hadn’t brought my boogie board out because I just wanted to swim and play in the waves for a little while, so I had nothing holding on to me as a beacon of how high to I’m about the water. Just me swimming along the floor of the ocean, searching for small fish.
Not once did I feel like I was in danger of the ocean and its dangers, I’ve always felt safe there. The only negative emotion was the fact I didn’t tell my dad how deep I may be going; though he could definitely see me splashing my brother over and over with salty water. The rest of my emotions ran extremely positively. I was filled with the feeling of bliss in addition to the excitement of not having my dad right next to me while I was swimming in the ocean.
Though that excitement was soon turned to absolute terror.
As I swam through waves, the tide was picking up. I wasn’t really concerned due to my childish confidence. My brother has started to head back to shore and I put my hand in the air, like I was about to ask a question to a teacher, then high fived the air. I hoped that my mom, who was watching me very carefully, understood what I meant. Just to be sure I yelled out to my brother, “Five more minutes!” My excitement due to the ocean was about to fade to disappointment via leaving - so I was going to draw that five minutes out as long as I could.
I was having a blast, maybe two minutes had passed, though it felt much less than that. Minutes felt like moments while I was held in the kind hands of the ocean. I suppose I may have been a bit reckless, not obeying the boundaries my father set to protect me.
As I swam, I noticed I couldn’t really place my feet on the sand at the bottom of the ocean, so I began to make my way back to shore. Back to my parents. I guess I was a little tired and was, though I never would admit to them, glad to be leaving the ocean and her joys.
It seems the ocean didn’t want me to leave. So she sent her waves to knock me down and stay with her. Her waves were powerful, and she commanded thousands of them. I was a weak child against a powerful army. A battle I knew I could not win, yet could not relinquish from. I wished I could end this battle after a moment, but she had other plans. She would not allow her army to cease their attack until my surrender.
A wave suddenly knocked me down, unexpectedly. I hadn’t heard it coming, I was barely to a waist deep area, so I should have been able to stand but I just couldn’t. The power of one of her soldiers was overwhelming.
I was trapped, I was suffocating, I couldn’t breathe. Everytime I tried to stand, she sent a new wave to bring me back down.
This wasn’t what I meant when I said I could spend hours in the ocean.
A new thought came to me with each strike of a wave, knocking me back down. I didn’t want to die. I wasn’t ready. I have lived so few years, there is still so much for me to do. Where are my parents? I want mom. I want dad. Why aren’t they saving me?
Why weren’t my parents coming to save me? I tried to scream for them, forgetting the crushing weight of water on my chest I tried to speak, but all that came out were gurgles, accompanied by the sting of salt water in my mouth.
The ocean’s kind and tender hands had transformed to jagged claws. She was holding me down with the sheer power of her army. Not allowing me to leave her. I understood why she didn’t want me to leave, it hurts, I understood that; but today was not the day I die.
In a final effort I worked to stand, despite the salt water flooding into my mouth and throat, causing a burning pain, I tried to scream. Ignoring the weight of the crystalline water, I tried to stand. As I did. I screamed, uttering a small “Help!” Before the waves capsized me once again.
It was a continuous struggle. I was fighting the clawing grasp of the ocean’s army while she dug her claws deeper and deeper to get me to stay. She had so much to back her up, and I was a measly little kid.
I guess it wasn’t possible to escape the grasp of the ocean forever. I suppose I did embrace it, if only for a moment, that I could experience the joys of the ocean eternally.
Until the weight on my chest lifted, and the salty tang which was burning a hole in my throat, dimmed.
I didn’t know where I was. Was I still in the ocean? Did I die? What happened to me?
I could sense light on my eyes, but they would sting if I even tried to squint, so I simply left them closed. With the weight of the water gone from my chest my breathing was able to take a slightly below normal speed. I felt like I was much more in tune with my body than I had ever been before, like I was in a trance. I knew everything that was happening within me.
What I didn’t know was what was around me.
“Lauryn! Lauryn! Wake up! You’re okay! It’s alright.” A mesh of voices snapped me out of my trance.
As my trance broke I learned I wasn’t invincible to the ocean; that I could die like everyone else, and my endeavours did have consequences. I came to realize that the rules my parents put in place were to help me. If only I had abided by those rules, maybe I wouldn’t have had this near death experience, leaving me with a lasting fear of deep water. Looking back, my childish fearlessness was what led me to it, it was an inevitable experience. One that I learned much from and shaped who I am.