My eyes open and flutter in the glare off shallow-trough waves. The water is funneled through this local inlet, pooling under the Old Bridge, as they say. It’s at the turn of the tide, and the air’s pensive. In front of me lies the waterfront, maybe a hundred yards away.
I am alone on this sunny, sunny day. Cloudless. No telling the exact hour. It’s morning. A mild feeling of exertion and the way I still welcome the warmth tells me I have not been on the water long. It’s almost as if I’d materialized out of nothing somewhere near this spot.
I do not think about what lives in the gloomy depths beneath me, below the bright intimate splashes—what I’d normally think of.
No children hover by the concrete pillars of the waterfront, tugging on the chains between them, or harass the squawking gulls. Nor do I see the seaweed and barnacles attached at the base of the wharf, which must be there, swooshing and feeding and filtering just below the surface. No other boats—puttering,drifting, or moored—are anywhere to be seen, not even beyond the bridge, which is far off to my right. No need for the keeper in his keeper house to pull the lever, twist a wheel, and pry the bridge apart for the occasional proud ship to breeze through. I see and think about only the simplest ordinary things: the faraway shore with its chains, the silent pillars, billowy trees in the park, the empty tourist swings by the water. And all the shiny waves between.
The sky welcomes me with summer blue, and I stop rowing. Nobody asks anything of me or about me. This is contentment: the perfect moment.
(Almost sleepy is how I feel.)
Through rowlocks I draw up the oars and lay them across my knees. The boat turns, creaking, ever-so-gently, along the subtle swirl of an ocean’s lesser eddy.
I look to the bridge, my former destination, and then above the bridge, glancing up, I marvel at the bluer-than-blue sky, a cerulean dome. If one were to follow that sky, one would eventually spill into the open sea.
But… that’s something odd…. Nothing was there a moment ago….
A horizontal streak cuts across the sky–quite high and so faint as to seem insubstantial. A line that should not be there, I think, squinting up at the brightness. A contrail? No. It is bluish, but not as blue as the sky, a thought that disappointments. All along the top, tiny tufts gather into a long, swooping shape, and yet with such a subtle difference in color, I think that what I’m seeing may not be real.
But the frothy band crisps as I watch. This is real. Impossibly high, lofty winds shear a line of foam, so minuscule, it is almost too tiny to perceive. And while this is a perfect day—the sun still shines warm upon my face and arms—the largest tsunami imaginable looms in the east, closer and closer, shudderingly silent, brushing the heavens with its frothy lips. As it approaches, a mountain of water blots out my sky with muted shades of blue.
Nowhere to hide, nobody to protect, I sit alone in my rowboat. Barely perceptible, the wave tips and lunges, and I am struck with a sickening dread…
(But this sensation passes quickly, as all must and do.)
I am afloat in a sunny rowboat on glistening water while the 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 before the end, a whisper: “How do you suppose it will feel to push up through a mile of black water?”