Worlds

She stands at the brink, her toes wrapping over the concrete corner and pointing down toward the splashing waves. The wind, racing above the surf and below the burning grey clouds, forces serenity and salt into her lungs, and she squints into it to distinguish the line at the end of the world. A gull’s cliched call seems to circle about her. Water leaps for her feet in a vain attempt to wet the ground on which she stands.

Behind her is everything: A town she called home; a house she lived in; clothes she wore; a car she drove and pictures hanging on the wall and the wine corks she had saved. She will not turn back toward them. The places she called her own; the trees she had climbed as a girl; the people she knew, and even loved – they are her past now. She raises a hand to her side and can feel her bones beneath her skin, present in place and in time. Behind her is nothing.

She opens her lips and speaks, mantra-like, quiet: “I was not made for this land, though I have walked it every day of my life. I was not born for this air, though I have breathed it every moment that I sleep or wake. And though my life has been anchored here, I leave it gladly, for it is but a shackle that holds me from the world for which I was made.”

There is a pause. She gazes down at the rocks not far beneath the wavecrests and collects her thoughts. Then, louder, perhaps so the sea will hear her over its own tumult, “Now that I have seen my home country, I cannot live in peace on the land I have traveled. So, O earth, reject me as I have rejected you; take back what you have given me and be good to those I leave behind. And receive me, O sea, as I commit myself to your profounding depths, your exalting peaks; be my life and my death, my resurrection and my rebirth, for far beneath your waves I find my destiny and kingdom.”

Peeling off her briny clothing, she opens her arms as if to embrace the sky and sighs deeply. There is noise, shouting, that reaches her from over her shoulder as if from a great distance, nearly lost in the wind. She instinctively knows it to be the voice of someone who would halt her journey and bring her back to the domain of dry land, and she knows that the voice, like all else, is behind her, can never turn her around. She breathes, finally, and flexes her legs.

The slap of footsteps on cement reaches her and suddenly she feels hands on her back, hands that would hold her. She lunges forward, over the side of the breakwater and into the overwhelming crush of the waves –

Her arms are grasped and held, her escape deferred. She shakes her head furiously, hair lashing a storm like a diadem about her head, reaches out, fingers stiff, for the sea. “No, no, no…”

“It’s okay, Marie, don’t struggle –” The voice is gentle, firm, but the monotonous words that do not reach her. Each different phrase says the same unpleasant thing to her.

“No…” She reaches around the binding fingers and points to the side of her neck. “The holes, don’t you see? The holes are where I breathe, and from my sides, too – they open in the water. Land is not home to me. Release me! Please, release me!”