Feb 2, 2016
The ocean was always bigger than me. There were a few things in life I was scared of, but water was never one of them. I couldn’t understand why everyone told me to be careful around the dock. If I happened to slip on the soaked wooden grain, I didn’t need to worry. A wave or two would always catch me, dampening my fall and leaving me with nothing worse than a sore belly and wet hair for a while. I actually enjoyed the smell of sea salt as it evaporated off my skin throughout a day of work.
Why they gave the clumsy kid the job of hook and reel repair, I’ll never know. Everyday meant the same rusty bucket full of newly cracked reels tangled in strings of bent hooks. The dock crew I was working with told every new dockhand the same three things: “Don’t bother showing up late,” “Keep the hell out of my way,” and “You’ll get paid after your bucket’s empty.” The soggy bread and dried fish weren’t the best payment. Taking what you can get in the Cove came as natural. At least I hadn’t resorted to digging in the fish-waste piles for food like some other folks I knew.
The days were long and heat tested hidden wills only found soaked underneath brows of inpatient men. My boss was one of these men. Three hours had elapsed since the sun had passed the quarter mark in the sky. It was descending fast and I soon began to suspect my hands would never allow for the sought after sight of an empty bucket. The wrapping of bandages that covered my hands were ripping off due to hooks digging their way into the soft gauze as I reached for more reels. Acknowledging pain wasn’t an option at this point. I had to get done before dark.
Bread always felt strange in my mouth when chewing it, but it really didn’t matter tonight. I hadn’t eaten all day. I sat on the same bucket that had caused me so much trouble. The last month had passed in what I thought were days, and everyday ended with me sitting on the edge of this bucket. Changes in the moon and stars filled me in on lost time. Things always looked different if you stared at them for a while. I decided to close my eyes. The ocean mist felt nice on my face and chest.
Darkness filled my eyes when I opened them. I wasn’t breathing. The sensation of a back and forth swaying motion overcame me. Swimming was still an option but with my vision taken, I couldn’t find solid purchase and I didn’t have to strength to stay afloat for much longer. As sound returned to me, I didn’t hear anything but the crashing of waves. I wasn’t able to drown after I tried to give up. The scent of sea salt was too strong for me to pass.
Published February 2, 2016 @TheMissourian