The waves chase sparse clouds to the horizon, where together they drop off the edge of the world. Soon the sun will sink with them again. My dream is to follow.
My dream. Ha! The snicker escapes my parched lips as a cackle, like the rustle of wrapping paper after the present is removed.
The truth is, after all this time I still have the gift–I just don’t call it that anymore. Sure, it made me happy at first. Who doesn’t wish for a superpower? Might not be exactly what I’d hoped for, but hey, sometimes you can’t be choosy. Besides, I didn’t choose it–it chose me. And if it was good enough for you-know-who, then who am I to complain?
I was numb with shock when it started. Who’d expect anything so weird? It was pure luck that I beat everyone to the pool that day. It was even greater luck that I went for the big splash of a cannonball; a proper dive would have broken my neck for sure. In hindsight, that would have saved me a ton of pain.
As it was, I landed on my butt and skipped across the surface of the pool like a stone. When I stopped moving, I didn’t sink. I didn’t even float. I sat there, on top of the water as if it were solid ice. Fortunately I regained my composure–and my legs–before my friends showed up.
It’s been life-changing, can’t argue that. No more baths, no more swimming, and no more washing dishes or dogs. A super-hero’s life in the making. I could have had some fun, like arriving late for a fishing trip, then freaking out my friends by pulling a “Jesus.” But no, I always acted normal. I always climbed in the boat with them.
Let me skip ahead to the really funny part.
So I’m at the beach with my girl Jan and a bunch of our friends, doing the usual–food, frisbee, swimming, sunbathing. Bonus sunbathing for me while I watch the others swim. Everyone wants me to join them, but I say I’ve got a headache. Again. Not a lie.
Tide’s low, so there’s lots of shore to pace on. For a while Jan walks with me, her hair blowing around her face, lighting up like a halo when the sun shines through it–like nature’s telling me she’s my perfect angel. Like I didn’t know that already. Eventually I convince her to swim out to the others. Why should she miss all the fun for my sake? We’ll hook up again later.
She wades out to meet an approaching wave, bigger than the rest, a “glory wave” she calls it. She turns to smile at me, then dives in with the grace of a sunbeam. I bask in the memory of that smile as I watch her glide out to frolic with the others.
Suddenly it’s a hustle and a bustle. Joe and Ned need to get home. Everyone’s still dripping as we grab bags and rush back to the cars. Everyone but Jan. Where’s Jan?
I see her, way out to sea, floundering in the sun-glazed swells.
Now my gift has purpose. I have purpose. I don’t care if I shock everyone–I sprint over the surf, sliding down troughs, slicing my feet on the jagged wave crests. I reach her side in a flash.
Jan’s hand breaks the surface and I brush her fingertips, soft against the coarse sea–but there’s not enough meat for me to grab onto. Her face, still glowing like an angel, bobs just below the surface, eyes wide as full moons, mouth puckered in a failed kiss. Her eyes blink, struggling to solve the puzzle: why won’t I save her? My scream is all that can reach her–a useless use of her name, as useless as my pounding on the water. The wisps of her hair wave a silent good-bye as she slips into oblivion.
I stomp an anguished fit, but the ocean won’t swallow me. I drop to my belly, bashing head and thumping fists until pools of my blood blister on the surface. Not even my blood can sink to her.
I hardly notice the wails and shrieks of those on shore; they are mere whimpers in my ear, torn to naught by the howls of my soul. I rise to my feet and turn my back to them.
Then I walk. And I walk. And I keep on walking.
Now I remember why I never walked on water for the fun of it: it’s not fun. It’s the loneliest thing in the world.
Kee Brenner’s mind never stops asking Why? and What if…? When that mind starts to reel, it spins tales of wonder. Sometimes sad. Sometimes scary. Sometimes offering threads of hope, or maybe a chuckle or two. You may imagine Kee’s life resembles Kee’s stories. Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?), that is a far cry from true.
Image by Kevin Krejci