My eyes flutter in the glare off shallow waves. Funneled through the inlet, pooling under the bridge, it’s the turn of the tide, when the air is at its most lax. A waterfront with iron ties is on my left, about a hundred yards off.
I am alone on this sunny, sunny day. Cloudless. I think it’s morning. There’s a mild feeling of exertion in my arms and chest, as if from rowing, but the fact the warmth feels good to me tells me I haven’t been on the water long. I may have materialized on the spot. I do not think about what lives in the depths below me, beneath my intimate splashes—I don’t think of what I’d normally think of.
Across the water, no children tug on the chains between the pillars, nor do any throw shells at gulls to make them squawk. I do not see the seaweed and barnacles attached at the base of the wharf, though they must be there, swooshing and feeding and filtering, just below the tide-line. No boats—not puttering, drifting, or moored—not even beyond the bridge, which lies ahead of me. No need for the keeper in his keeper house to pull a lever, twist a wheel, and pry apart an artery for the occasional proud vessel to pass through. No horns blast. I see and think about only the simplest ordinary things: the faraway shore with its chains, billowy trees, and swings that lie empty, and the pert shiny waves between.
The sky bathes me with 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 draw the oars and lay them across my knees. The boat turns, groaning within a muddy green swirl, gently, atop the smallest of ocean eddies.
There’s the bridge—my destination, I imagine—and above the bridge, a cerulean dome. If you were to follow its course, you would spill over into the open sea.
But, look… that’s odd. A moment ago, there had been nothing there.
A slash across the sky—quite high and so faint as to seem insubstantial: a line that should not be there. I squint against brightness. Bluish, yet not as pure a blue as the rest, a thought that disappointments. Along its top, tiny tufts gather into a swooped shape. Because there’s only a mild differentiation in color, I suspect what I see isn’t real.
The frothy band crisps. Impossibly high, winds shear a line of foam, so diminutive, it’s almost too flimsy to comprehend. And while this has truly been a perfect, perfect day—the sun shines warm upon my face—in the east, a cataclysm looms, shudderingly silent, brushing the heavens with frothy lips. Closer and closer, it approaches… a mountain, it blots out the sky.
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 dread….
(But this sensation passes, as all must and do.)
I am afloat in a rowboat on a brilliant stretch of water while my heaven narrows to a close. Lying back, eerily calm, I wait for a deafening roar, for a mountain to fall on my head, smothering everything I am and have ever been under its drear immensity.
But, just before the end, someone whispers: “How do you suppose it will feel… to push up through a mile of black water?”