My eyes flutter in the glare off shallow-trough waves. Funneled through the inlet, pooling under the Old Bridge, as they say, it’s the sea, at the turn of the tide, when the atmosphere is its most lax. A waterfront with iron berth-ties sits a hundred yards out, to my left.
I am alone this sunny, sunny day. Cloudless. No telling the hour. It’s morning. There’s a mild feeling of exertion in my arms and chest, but the way I welcome the day’s warmth tells me I haven’t been on the water long. It’s almost as if I’d materialized on the spot. I do not think about what lives in the gloomy depths below me, beneath these bright intimate splashes—I don’t think of what I’d normally think of.
Across the water, no children hover by the pillars tugging on the chains between them, nor do they harass the gulls to make them squawk. Nor can I see the seaweed and barnacles attached at the base of the wharf, though there they must be, swooshing and feeding and filtering, just below the lapped tide-line. No other boats—none puttering, drifting, or moored—not even beyond the bridge, which is ahead, to my right. No need for the keeper in his keeper house to pull the lever, twist a wheel, and pry an artery apart for the occasional proud vessel to breeze through. No horns blast. I see and think about only the simplest ordinary things: the faraway shore with its chains, broad billowy trees, swings that lie empty, and the pert shiny waves in between.
The sky bathes me with summer blue. I’ve stopped rowing. Nobody asks anything of me or about me. This is contentment: the perfect moment.
(Almost sleepy is how I feel.)
Through rowlocks, I’ve drawn the oars and lay them across my knees. The boat turns, groaning, ever-so-gently, within a muddy blue-green swirl, the smallest of the ocean’s eddies.
There’s the bridge, my destination, I suppose, and above the bridge, glancing up, a cerulean dome—if one were to track its course, one would spill over into the open sea, eventually.
But, look… now that’s odd. A moment ago, there’d been nothing.
A horizontal streak, a slash across the sky—quite high and so faint as to seem insubstantial: A line that should not be there. I squint against the brightness. A contrail? No. Bluish, though not so pure a blue—a thought that disappointments. Along its top, tiny tufts gather into a long, swooped shape. With such a tepid differentiation in color, I suspect what I see may not be real.
The frothy band crisps. Impossibly high, lofty winds shear a line of foam, so delicate, so diminutive, it’s almost too flimsy for comprehension. And while this has truly been a perfect, perfect day—the sun still shines warm upon my face—a lusty cataclysm of water looms in the east, shudderingly silent, brushing the heavens with its frothy lips. Closer and closer, it approaches… the mountain blots out the sky with darker shades of blue.
Nowhere to hide, no one to protect, I sit alone in my rowboat. Barely perceptibly, the wave tips and lunges, and I am struck with a sickening dread….
(But the sensation passes quickly, as all must and do.)
I am afloat in a sunny rowboat on a glistening stretch of water. My sky narrows to a close. Lying back, eerily calm, I wait for the deafening roar, a mountain to fall on my head, smothering everything I am and have ever been under its drear immensity.
But, just at the end, a whisper: “How do you suppose it will feel… to push up through a mile of black water?”