The sea calls to me, it’s true. Because it’s the only place where the other call quiets and peace crashes in.
A fear lives within, coiled deep. The eighteen year old kicking. Kick, kick, kicking. Idle as a child with a foot against a desk leg while a cloud pulls his eyes skyward. Ignored, becoming frantic like a dog left in the yard, dust settling. A howl caught in my teeth like a cough.
There’s a word for it, that homesick feeling. A heartache in your chest while you look at your family around the dinner table. Hiraeth, longing for home while sitting in the house you sweat for every week. A feeling deeper than sense and harder to explain.
Here though, I am still. Lying on the sand with my hand dug in. Cradled in the whirl of a seashell, the kicking ceases. I resist as long as I can. My eyes draw a line between the snapping red flags, hand tunnels deeper into the sand. The exquisite anticipation. Flick my gaze away as it hits the foam behind the closest wave. I know it feels like a spa, right there in the sweet spot after the crash.
Heart pulling forward in my rib cage. I know, I know. Wait. Sand fleas rising, tick against me. Wait, wait. A whif off acrid cigarette smoke stings. Don’t look where the butt lands as it’s arcs, flicked from brown fingers. Run.
Toward the sea, the laugh spat out, teeth white behind cracked lips. No flinch, legs high, skipping now. Finally a wave takes my knees and I’m diving into the foam behind it. Biting cold as I rise, the whoop hidden all winter. Clear and loud here, in this place.
A strong incoming tide pushes. I dig in, turn sideways into the next wave. It’s time for under and over, a favourite since childhood. Each one inching me closer, closer, until my feet don’t scrape the sand on the intake for the next wave. Finally. Laughing now, with waves big enough to thrill, my head ducked low with a nagging, ancient fear of surfboards. Past my comfort level, almost past caring.
Turning to look, the sand castle being slapped into place beneath my children’s hands now tall. Hidden rocks through the middle. Whoever kicks this one will hurt their spiteful toes.
Their pull is stronger than an ocean. I duck low under the next one, let it thrum along my legs. Turning, arms windmilling, I make the next one take me in. A song in my heart as they lift their heads. Mummy’s back! I’m a rock star touring home.
We turn away from her, reclutance stilled by the promise of salty chips in paper. A long hot drive home, the breathless dust as we get closer. The stink of concrete rising off the driveway.
I don’t linger in the car or rest my head upon the wheel and I don’t feel homesick as I walk into the hall, our smell smacking me in the nose. I breathe in, the salt lingers and I am home.