We kept coming back and I grew up as long as I could there. I moved far away for a time, to another continent, but that beach, the distinctive curve of the island and the hotels that have risen and fallen along it, has never been far from my mind.
At the time, the water seemed manageable, a body of something you could see and feel.
I look out at the water now, mindful that the sun might be cooking cancer into my tan, aware that the salt water is good for my sinuses, but not so good for my skin, that the dune buggy we never rented is just a frameless car with a noisy engine, a gas guzzler with bad steering.
The water is never far from my mind.
It's winter now, and even in Austin, the chill in the evening air has become a constant. I can't sit out on the back porch anymore (not that I got much of a chance to this year anyway with how busy things have been). A few Christmas decorations went up in the house. I started late, but sent a few Christmas cards (a very few. I'm awful at keeping addresses), and started scoping some presents. I'm hopelessly behind. I think I'll celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6.
The thing is, I'm happy. Or at least I should be. I want to be. The ingredients for a festive holiday are there.
But I can't stop thinking of the water and how it doesn't feel to me like a tangible area of anything anymore. It feels like an uncontrollable mass, an overwhelming series of waves, of frenzy that I will never be able to ride out.
Do I even have to go over the list? There's my personal dramas, the ones you certainly have whether you have a job or not, whether you have someone in your life life you love, if you have friends, or family or you live in a place where you connect to other humans.
I don't want to believe that the gulf water is washing us away. I really don't. But something, the way the air smells to me, maybe, fills me with a hopelessness that was never there before. Or maybe it was there, but it was cloaked in the preadolescent fears of nuclear war, of parents who might die, of monsters.
I have friends struggling to make ends meet. I have family members who have had health problems. There are those who've died this year, those who've had emotional breakdowns. There is a moment when you ask someone close if they're okay, and their eyes tell you that things are very wrong and there's no way you or anyone close to them can fix them. There are the usual fears and disillusionments, the miscommunications, the feelings of failure or uncertainty. There is opening your mouth and finding nothing there you want spoken.
And on a larger scale, I'm disgusted and sad with the things I'm reading, the way we act and are perceived as a people. We bribe other countries to go along with our absurd overtures of war against one country while cordially treating another country that seems to be a much bigger threat. North Korea is standing in the middle of the street saying, "Nuclear weapons? Hell, yeah we're working on them! You want some of this?" And the U.S. says, "Oh yeah, let's deal diplomatically with those guys. After all, there's no oil there we can target." Disgusting. How are other countries supposed to not hate us when we seem to create special rules for ourselves, when we bully and bribe, shuck and jibe, dance to the consciousless dollar? I believe a lot of the movement to bring down capitalism is pure bullshit, but when our own government acts with the foresight of Mr. Moneybags in a no-rules game of Speed Monopoly, you start to wonder if maybe those WTO protesters don't have a point.
I'm upset people are surprised that someone in power in this country (Lott, not Bush) could say something so unbelievably stupid and racist, and I'm furious that it took those in Lott's party (up to and including those who live in a white house in Washington) a few days to condemn the comments, as if they were waiting to see which way the political winds were blowing before sticking their knotty, wobbly necks out.
Nor do I feel any control or influence, like so many of you must feel, upon these things. It's part of the ocean, the tide uninfluenced by even the pull of the moon.
It's like that sometimes, in my head, watching the water. The undertow pulls and I'm washed away by waves and waves as it roils, the chaotic gulf and its deadly weight. I swim and I swim, but sometimes my limbs feel exhausted and the saltwater rubs the back of my throat raw until I'm hoarse and can no longer speak.
Hey, look at this! Stuff to buy! Haaawwwt-Damn!
On what he whimsically pretended was the 6 and 1/3rd platform, Steven could see nothing more magical than vomit and a used condom on the tracks.