The wind whips through my office window and I feel it in my chest, as if the sea and I are tethered by a cord that is tugged by the wind. I almost hear words on it, calling me to sea like the neighbor kids calling to me from below my bedroom window when I was little.
I imagine my heart threaded through with cords tying me to people and things. I feel when each cord is tugged and sometimes I feel when they let go, when rot and neglect cause them to break loose and free me. Not all freedom is sweet, not all liberty desirable.
Finally, I hit the send button and close all my open windows—physical, digital and otherwise. The sound of wind is in the palms, I swear I feel it quicken, like a pulse, as I lock the front door. From inside the car, I see the palm fronds contort, pointing to the beach, but there is no sound except my own familiar breathing. I turn the radio up.
Roughly 4 Adele songs and a Goyte and a half later, I’m at the beach. Wind rocks the car and sand stirs on the pavement. I see a small pack of guys in the water a few hundred yards South; no one is on the beach. A vague recollection of college physics surfaces and I imagine the vector I will trace with my body as I paddle West while the current carries me South. Thanks to CrossFit I generate enough force to make it through the inside without being dragged like a paper boat downstream. I have been the paper boat many times, but not today and I am grateful.
The lifeguard waves at me from his little porch. I’m not sure why. It could be warning or reassurance. I pretend I don’t notice because it makes me uncomfortable. I catch a bunch of waves before drifting into the pack. Staying stable on my new board in the chop is taking all my concentration and the other guys are making me nervous with their serious faces.
The discomfort passes quickly though because before I know it I am 20 yards South of them. There is a lovely girl on this side in the cutest little short spring suit, water droplets dangle from her eyelashes, glinting in the sun, her hair perfectly slicked back, lips glossed. I’m pretty sure there is snot on my face. Her beauty rattles me and everything goes surreal suddenly, as though I’ve drifted into Homer’s Odyssey. I’m pretty sure if she were to speak it would be in iambic pentameter, but before I get a chance to find out a wave comes to me and I ride it in.
My board is like a sail on the beach. I have to brace it with my left hand to avoid being carried off by the wind. As I approach the spot where I am going to paddle back out for another drift, I see someone walking towards me. It’s the lifeguard. He is carrying that red floaty thing lifeguard’s carry, it looks disproportionately large under his arm. In the few minutes before he reaches me I try to imagine what he plans to say, but I can’t think of anything.
“You’re doing really well out there.” he says. I laugh because a) that’s so not true and b) I do that in awkward situations.
“Thanks.” I say.
“Are you just learning?” he asks. Again, I laugh because a) that’s not really true and b) I do that in awkward situations.
“You could say that.” I say.
He goes on to marvel at my paddle out, provide me with several helpful hints and tell me I’m using the wrong board (“You should start out with a much bigger board, it would be a lot easier for you.”) I do a lot of nodding. I am thinking about that pretty girl back in the water, wondering what she was about to say. I am thinking about how nothing much matters here. Not how I look or how I surf or what the lifeguard thinks or what that Siren was about to say to me.
What matters is paying attention to that tug on my heart and following the cord to the other end. In that moment where there is slack, not from being let go, but from being close, is the sweet spot. This is the space where I want to live my life.