I had only ever been in the Atlantic. It was warm and the waves weren’t much taller than me. I had been knocked around in them but also rode on top of them; surfed them with my body and rode them to the sandy shores.
But the Pacific was different. And the family I had here in California was different. The water was cold and the waves were troubling and overpowering and crashed into the rocks and beach with a commanding presence I had never seen before.
My uncle and father hung back and I walked the shoreline, far enough ahead of them to feel as if I was alone. The whole trip was plagued with the expectations of others. It was clear to me that my uncle had money even though I had no idea what he did. His house was nice and he had a pool that was heated and seemed cleaner than the one I went to back home. He had photographs of people I didn’t recognize throughout his house and when I asked who they were he laughed and said that he bought the show house and never got around to changing out the photographs. I didn’t understand what that meant but when I told my parents my mom laughed and my dad laughed but in a very different way. My aunt kept telling the same story about the time her kids found Madonna’s house and talked to her even though she didn’t live in Orange County but I only heard it once because her two kids were busy tying me up with their ninja turtle bed sheets and covering my head with a pillow case. They were in high school and thought it was funny when I screamed but after a while I think it started to piss them off because they put me in the closet. They locked me in and I heard them laughing but after a while I didn’t hear them anymore. They told me if I said anything to my parents or their parents they’d only do it worse the next night so I kept my mouth shut.
I was thankful to be at the beach and to feel alone and away from them and the indifference and preoccupations of adults but the ocean was frightening. My uncle and my father kept urging me to go in but I couldn’t even see how that would be possible.
I kept walking until I could barely see them behind me while the sound of the ocean crashing against the shore and the rocks grew inexplicably loud and then suddenly, I started to sing.
I sang at the ocean and urged it to come for me. In my song I was full. In my song I was unafraid of the waters foamy and green collisions with the jagged rocks. When I sang, I could barely hear myself let alone my aunt’s dumb story or my cousins laughing or the indifference of my father and uncle. When I sang at the ocean the only person who could hear it was me.