The Things We Carry with Us

The wave breaks against my legs as I step in to the water, splashing me past my knees. It feels cold, but I know that’s just a first impression, contrasting with the still warm evening sun on my shoulders. It’s the beach vacation in Lloret de Mar once again and my favourite cove seems to be giving its visitors a hug of sorts with the rocks encircling it on either side. But the waves seem faster and harder as they hurry towards the shore.

It’s funny how quickly memory transports us back to certain incidents in our lives, regardless of how much time has passed since. Something triggers the effect and it’s as real to you as it was then. And while you might need some pushing to confront whatever might have been holding you back, forcing yourself is not the same thing, nor is it a good idea.

The root of my quickened heartbeat in this case stretches back to an evening swim several years ago in the same sea, on a beach not far off. I wasn’t far from the shore and had of course turned my back to the open water behind me. The waves were pleasantly mellow and I would occasionally slope along with the water. I stopped swimming for a second to find the sandy bottom I was sure I could already reach with my toes, and in that moment a wave splashed my face. As I spluttered and blinked furiously to get the salt water out of my eyes, another one splashed me over the head from the side. Disoriented, I tried to scramble out of the water, only to be knocked down at the knees by another wave. Suddenly all I could hear was the repeated rush of the water as the waves broke. My parents grabbed my arms and helped me up.

Another wave splashes against my presently firmly sand-planted legs and I realize two things.

One, I haven’t gone for a proper swim whenever I saw slightly choppier waters on the Mediterranean in years. Two, I need to do it now. I just do. So I wade in, lean forward and start swimming in a quieter moment between waves, ignoring the first cold rush and warming up as my body keeps moving. The waves come and I see them, but I catch the right moment to raise myself along with the water, repeating to myself that I can swim. I make myself breathe calmly, and the sea seems to follow. I let myself occasionally bob like a cork and the waves just rock me along with them. The water is warmer now. When I turn around to swim back to shore, little movement is required and I’m being gently pushed back butt first.

In the shallows I once again plant my feet firmly on the bottom and take wider steps, finding my momentum to master the slight slope upwards from the water towards the shore.

Inhaling and exhaling for an extra few seconds I turn around to look at the most translucent shade of azure I ever saw in sea water, right between the wave crest and the foamy edge, gone almost before you can spot it. Whatever I had carried around with me these past years, I have given it back, and it dissolved, leaving a clear path among the waves.

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