September 28th, 2022
Eight Page Draft
Short Story #1 Draft – Step Four
The mighty ocean waves crashed against the rocks with beautiful, yet fearful vigor, the salt water splashing straight into the air and beginning the dive bomb back towards the ground, right on me and Winter. She laughed and I mumbled a few obscenities, obviously pissed off from being completely drenched with sea water filled with decomposing sea plants and fish and whatever else is in that stuff.
“Ha-ha,” I said, still annoyed. While Winter didn’t bother to wipe the salt water droplets off her face, the taste of it on my lips made my face scrunch up and my stomach turn. I never liked the ocean, too powerful and too unpredictable.
People have described me as something like a storm cloud, angrily drifting from one place to the next. If that is true, which I don’t doubt, I would describe Winter as a partly sunny day. There is a cloud there, but the sun is always peaking through so you never pay attention to the cloud part. Like everyone else, she calls me angry. Rather than anger, I see it as frustration. I’m frustrated with the world and all of its shittiness and how everybody ignores it and moves through life pretending to be okay in order to survive in that false constructed reality. To have a true sight of reality is to be sadder, because reality is sad. When Winter came into my life I found someone who made things a little less shitty because she views the world on the same plane as I do, except she seems to handle it much better than I can.
The ocean continues to beat against the rocks. It’s nearly high tide, and Winter steps a little further out than I’m comfortable with. It’s not my place to say anything, so I don’t. I watch her walk out, admirably calm on the increasingly slippery rocks. I stay behind and watch as the water splashes up and around her. I don’t understand how someone can be so confident in such a chaotic place. If I even tried calling her back now, she wouldn’t be able to hear me over the noise. Yet she continues to walk unphased along the rocks, closer to the madness.
She’s 16, a year younger than me. Her black hair is cut at shoulder-length and her eyes an illuminating blue, bright like ice but not so cold. She originally lived in New York City where her parents made a living through creating art. Her father was an Impressionist painter, her mother a prolific writer. They moved to my small town called Mystic, Connecticut, because her mother had gotten very ill and wanted to live in a peaceful place for her final days. She passed away only a few months after their arrival here, and I was unable to meet her. She has never opened up to me about the pain she endures because of it. I leave it that way because I know she does not want me to know. She seems happy enough, so I don’t worry.
Winter did tell me that her mother loved the ocean. She loved the salt air and would likely do anything to have the water splash on her face and have that gross salty water fall on her lips, the very water I cringed at. But that is not my weight to carry, so I repress the guilt. Just because she liked the ocean does not mean I have to, and just because Winter keeps walking closer to danger does not mean I have to follow. Does she expect me to enter into the madness?
I continued to watch Winter from a distance. Worried now that she has walked out of sight, I begin to call for her. First calm, then a little more desperate: “Winter? Winter, where are you? Hey! WIN-TER! This is not funny!” The rocks were dangerous and I was afraid to move forward, but I couldn’t stand losing sight of her. It was probably all part of her plan. She knew I would follow her, even if I didn’t know. But I wasn’t as confident in the chaos as she was. I was afraid I would break at the first wave that was a little too strong. I treaded slowly, looking in all directions at the nightmare ahead. Hesitantly, I moved forward.
I kept moving further along the rocks, thankful that I didn’t have to return home for a little while longer to the isolation of my room and my severely depressed father. He hasn’t been the same since mom died. While her death changed me, it basically stole my father’s soul. When I talk to him it’s like he’s no longer there. He responds, but that’s all it is – A reply, not a conversation. The only way that I can help him is by being strong and acting like things will get better. It’s much easier to ignore my problems than it is for me to confess that I’m hopelessly breaking.
Devyn keeps me sane because his mind operates so differently than mine, and I am curious to know why. When his mind isn’t on fire, his thought process is fascinating. We are two existential humans who cope differently with the reality of living, and it is interesting to hear his line of reasoning for his persistent anger and distaste at the world.
I keep walking forward. The tide seems to be overtaking the rocks ahead of me. My skin starts to go numb due to its repetitive exposure to the freezing cold water breaking all around me. I walk forward with confidence, without really knowing why. It’s as though I’ve been momentarily desensitized to the danger by the numbness of my body. I take a seat on one of the rocks and curl my knees to my chest.
I cannot figure her out, but I enjoy talking to her. That doesn’t mean that it’s not difficult sometimes. Although she seems okay for the most part, there are times where it’s difficult to communicate with her. I call, no answer. I try texting, she doesn’t even read it. Knock on her door, no answer. When she does eventually get back to me, she acts as though nothing happened. I know there’s something there, but I do not want to overstep her boundaries. Whenever she is around me, she seems fine. I am the one who is vocal about even the most minor inconveniences, and she always makes sure that I return back to an even keel. She is supportive, but doesn’t seem like she needs support from me.
The harshness of the salt water stings my eyes and the wind threatens to throw me into the unforgiving depths of the feisty sea below. I feel helpless, then angry. Why would she willingly decide to keep walking forward? What was her motive? Was this to teach me to be calm, a test of my ability to control my frustrations? A large wave widens my perspective back to the reality of my situation. I continue to call for her, beginning to truly panic now. Panic is a lot like anger, except it involves fear. While fear may be the cause of the anger, the two are much different than one another. I have no control over this situation. I am afraid.
Then, the wind slows. The waves calm down. The sky remains gray and cloudy, a daunting reminder that at any moment it has the power to start up again. I take a moment to wipe my eyes and gather my surroundings. I know that at any moment she’ll come up behind me and scare me or something. After all, it’s Winter. She wouldn’t just do something so stupid unless there was something motivating her, or if she for somehow felt helpless. That was a thought that sent me into another panic. What if she was helpless? Am I?
My eyes are open but I do not see anything in particular. I feel as though I am sinking into the depths of my own heart. The mind has decided to power down. It cannot handle the avoidance, the pain, the unanswered, silent cries for help. My heart takes the hit. I am marinating in my emotions and the sensation in my body has left due to the cold wind and freezing water splashing all around me. My voice does not seem to work. I feel as though I am being crushed by the weight of my own feelings, though I do not feel. I think my mind has broken. I did not take care of it. I am freezing, but my mind is on fire.
Now, I am no longer caught in the midst of the angry sea, but I almost wish that I was. There is comfort in feeling. The calm waves do not represent peace to me, they scare me. I want to feel the water on my face. But it is quiet now. The wind is not howling in my ears. The waves crash gently among the rocks. Inside, I panic. Outside, I remain.
My mother loved it here. Before she passed, she would ask me to drive her to the beach and help her walk out on the rocks, regardless of her doctors’ firm requests for her not to do so. She didn’t care. She was strong-willed and wanted to see what she had admired for so long, what her husband had painted in beautiful backgrounds with mysterious characters all those years and whose very paintings and characters she wrote stories about. Living in the concrete jungle had not permitted her to take in the beauty of the ocean in large doses. Instead, she had been forced into avoidance. Now, she was faced head on with it. She wanted to take every second of it in, the calm, the angry, the gloomy, the happy. High tide, low tide, night and day.
Just like her, I avoided it for a while after she passed on. Over time, though, I came to know the love that she had for this vast, ever-changing sea.
But now it has tied me down to this rock that I sit at. I still don’t move, except through the thoughts that drift through my internal river of feelings. I went too far into the chaos, and I am not sure what to do now. So I sit. I do not fight, but wait for the waves to come again.
I begin to ponder whether she is hurt. Maybe she slipped and fell off of the rocks and now she is lying somewhere in pain, unable to move nor speak because of her injury. That is a scary thought. I called again.
“Winter?! Wiiiiiiiin-ter! Are you okay?” The panic has fully set in now. The sky remains gray, and the clouds begin to release a soft mist.
My mind starts tuning into reality again when I hear Devyn calling my name. Without knowing why, a tear falls down my cheek. I start to gain awareness of my surroundings again. Another tear falls gently. My body is still cold, but no longer frozen. It’s as though I begin to thaw. The warmth of a familiar voice infiltrates every nerve in my body. The ocean has not taken me as it’s prisoner, but seems to release me.
I continue to walk forward, no longer afraid, but determined. Determined to find Winter and to help her if she was hurt. If she fell into the rocks she could be seriously injured. I walk slowly and deliberately, looking at every crevice to see if she has fallen to a place I cannot see her.
At first I didn’t even recognize it to be her, she almost blended in with the rocks surrounding her. A small, curled up lump, unmoving. When I got to her, all I did was sit. I did not talk. I sat. I was present. I touched her hand, she was freezing. My coat wasn’t nearly as drenched as hers, so I put it over her shoulders. All she needed was a little warmth. A little acknowledgement that she was cold. If I had known that, I would have helped her sooner. I should have asked more questions before she walked out here. My stubbornness overtook my ability to see what was about to come. How long has she been this cold? How long since she’s felt warmth?
I soaked up the comfort of his coat on my shoulders. He found me, meaning he endured the wrath of the ocean and did not give up on me. He saw how the ocean froze me, paralyzed me, and took hold of me. He did not say anything, but he was present. That was all I needed. I had almost drowned in the depths of the unrelenting sea. Maybe it was because I hadn’t been there in so long and forgot how to face it. But in the end, I needed help. Once I had gotten too far out into the rocks, however, I was afraid to call back for Devyn. I was afraid to admit that I couldn’t stand it. I had to prove it to myself and to my mother that I was strong. But nothing can stop those powerful waves from crashing again and again. I needed to know when it is safe to cope with the waves, and when they are simply too strong to bear. A danger that is ignored will ultimately hurt the person who ignores it. I should have acknowledged the danger, the coldness that was overtaking my body second by second.
I could not figure her out, but I enjoyed talking to her. That doesn’t mean that it was not difficult sometimes. Although she seemed okay for the most part, there were times where it was difficult to communicate with her. I called, no answer. I tried texting, she didn’t even read it. Knocked on her door, no answer. When she did eventually get back to me, she acted as though nothing happened. I knew there was something there, but I did not want to overstep her boundaries. Whenever she was around me, she seemed fine. I was the one who was vocal about even the most minor inconveniences, and she always made sure that I returned back to an even keel. She was supportive, but didn’t seem like she needed support from me.
But she did need support. She did need love. She did need to be seen. Her silence was a cry for help. She disappeared for those times because the pain was overtaking her, paralyzing her. She masked her feelings in order to protect anybody from seeing the terrifying ocean within. The one she struggled with, day after day, in the grievance of her mother. And in the grievance of her father, who was also frozen in pain.
While Devyn helped me in that moment, I know there will be more times where I get lost on those rocks and lose my ability to feel. I know I will have moments where I am trapped in my mind. But I have relearned the power of human connection that I had so long forgotten since I taught myself to no longer allow myself to feel it. One human showing care for another on this floating rock. If it weren’t for our connectedness to others, we would all likely be stuck in a perpetual state of existential thought that would drive us mad. While that is my reality anyway, the power of empathy keeps my afloat.