The day was flat and gray at first glance. The sky and sea both a monochromatic slate so that you couldn't precisely tell where one began and the other ended. But there was a vibrancy behind the lack of color, a pulse. Shadows that may or may not have been there. Unexpected hues that brightened against the drab backdrop.
Kool Breeze and I sat on the rocks as the sea spray misted on us. Tide was coming in, slowly, so it must have been late in the day, though you couldn't tell, didn't care to know. Our jagged perch was well-populated. Tenacious barnacles, purple-infused crabs, the occassional seagull. The small ecosystem throbbed with life and we stared, transfixed, our observations randomly broken by shouts. "Jesus! Look at this!" and we pointed and tried to describe what we saw, though odds were we'd not see the same thing.
Kool Breeze was eating a banana and when he tossed the peel on the rocks, it beat like an animated heart, the bruised brown ridges swirling with the yellow, no less alive than the creatures which scurried around our feet. These sights seemed to rise and greet us, on display for our personal show before the waves covered them.
The ocean plowed into the shore. The sound was thunderous and we had to shout to be heard over its gray insistence. White foam bundled against the rocks with purpose and we'd cast inquisitive eyes toward the vast depths. Once, we thought we saw a ship out there, shrouded behind the wall of mist and if we imagined it, we imagined it exactly the same. That's the way it was. You'd go off on your own, but eventually our minds would return because there was nobody else like us at that moment.
I don't know why Kool Breeze looked up that time. He doesn't either. But he saw it and cast a calm warning. I scoffed. Inperturbable. The wave was big and it was coming for us. I turned back to the crabs, one of which seemed to grow before my eyes, into something important.
Hours earlier, we were laying down on park benches as the poison worked its way through our system. The benches were back-to-back, so I couldn't really see him and talking was difficult for us both. We'd grunt something, checking in, waiting for the moment. I pulled my knees up to my chest, trying to flatten out my lower back where the nerve endings battled against a thousand pin pricks. Just within earshot, a street performer was working his act in front of the tourists who'd gotten to the boardwalk early. He was funny, but we couldn't laugh, content with exhaling bursts of air when something he said tickled.
We'd dressed optimistically in shorts, knowing the marine layer and how it could peel off to reveal a hot sun, even late in the year. It was cold, but still, and whatever discomfort we might have felt was slowly being melted away. "I think we need to go," Kool Breeze said finally. I was in no position to disagree.
We started to walk. Only it didn't feel like walking. We were being propelled, widgets on an assembly line. Conveyor belt, we both agreed, pushing us forward without any exertion on our parts, as if in a dream. We laughed without pause, could not contain, and randomly shouted out words like infants just learning how to speak. "Flotilla" was one and the way it ran off our tongues was enough to make us stop and sit. Too much happening and that guy in the second floor window looks like a horse.
We hadn't gone far, made it to the paddle ball courts and tried to take stock. We were whizzing down a tunnel, demon train, River Styx, but without the fear, only the wonder. The courts were packed early and the slap of wooden rackets and shouts were like the most important sounds on Earth and I became lost in them, the competition, reading their faces and flying sweat and bending limbs trying to find the essence of them and when I snatched some truth, I turned to Kool Breeze and called his name. Once. Twice. Several more times, but he only stared forward. I cracked him one on the shoulder and he turned, blankly. "Where are you?" I asked.
"Far, far away," he said.
The wave hit us full force. Drowned rats. I slipped on our barbed purchase, frantic but calm, trying to find a hold as the rocks ripped bloody ribbons into my bare arms. I shouted a mouthful of salt water, closed my eyes against its sharpness, the sky, the ocean, which was which and the shore was where? It was over before I could answer and Kool Breeze and I could only stare at each other.
We were soaked. The tide ran out over our shoes, our ankles and calves, and we watched with curiosity turning to amusement and finally, laughter. Deep and honest but with the trembling undercurrent of relief. We fumbled our way to the soggy sand and began to feel the wind bite our wet skin beneath our now useless clothes. Kool Breeze's backpack leaked sea water and he opened it up to pour out more excess. We shrugged and started to trudge toward the boardwalk, to the car. We couldn't stay. Already we shivered and warmth was blocks away, though we didn't want to leave, didn't want it to end.
I'd driven this way before. That one time when I crossed the Pass in the foggy dark of 4 a.m. Going home to her, again. Actions repeated. Away while she stood indignant sentry. I'd made that drive countless times, could do it in my sleep though sometimes shocked when I pulled into the garage at the end, like a movie you love that seems to be over too quickly. I saw stars on the road guiding me and tentacles coming from the hillside.
No matter how many times, she always woke up. She started in as soon as I entered our bedroom. I lied to her casually as her words pinged off me like hopeless rain drops. I laid wrong, feet where my head should be, chin hanging off the bottom edge of the bed and I fell into the swirling mass of our carpet, a shifting blacky swamp, where her voice couldn't get to me.
We kept seeing the guy and every time, he looked more and more equine, his face getting longer with the power of suggestion. There by Muscle Beach, in the poster shop, behind the basketball courts where the runners threw barbs and dodged fights.
We took wrong turns and ended up in somebody's apartment because of the Escher halls and Dali colors we followed because we had to, like on the beach where we talked to people walking by, complete nonsense which caused us to fall back into the damp sand laughing. I stayed in the bathroom for too long, mesmerized by my throbbing legs and the way they turned into people I didn't know. We sat behind a band and watched two guys juggle fire and machetes and said "flotilla."
Megadeth was on the tape deck when we drove east, just a few miles to the campus. I was living with Kool Breeze then. She'd kicked me out or I left or some of both. I'd never go back, except to get my stuff when the semester ended.
I peeled off my wet clothes and got in the shower while Kool put on The Doors and made chicken pot pies. The water coated me in armor and I sat on the warming tile and let it wash over me. Just sitting there, aimless and cheerful, and feeling perfect. Embryonic, I suppose.
That's how it felt.