a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
Stuck in a world of our own,
Humanity was always a world away,
It was just the sea, my mother and me.
I should have listened,
The sea has destroyed us.
They say water has memory. Imagine what a gigantic body of water could hold; the deception of sailors against their wives, the tears of a child from fear of the water, and even the smiles of a mother sharing a day on the beach with her daughter.
I always was the observant one. All my life, I couldn’t help but notice the odd shapes of leaves when stepped on, the way water seemed to settle on the skin of a child and the struggling butterfly taking off for the first time. Even now, I still notice little things like that.
They say when you are in the water, you think of nothing, but yourself and the water; you feel the waves crashing all around you and the current fighting hard against you. I can’t think of one thing. I’ve never been able to. I think of everything.
My mother had warned me, time and time again, that the sea does what it pleases. She had told me the sea wasn’t my friend and that I should never let myself be deceived, so while I lay in the water face-up, I remember her words, even though she is long gone. I will remain here in the water. I will not let the sea drown me. I will not take gifts from the sea. The sea is not my friend.
We lived by the sea all our lives, my mother and me. She had a love-hate relationship it, I think. She hated it so much she wouldn’t let me too close. But she loved it so much, she could never be free.
Maybe I should hate it too because I will never be free. Maybe I should hate it because it changed our lives forever. Because nothing will ever be the same again.
My mother was right, the sea is not our friend. I thought it was once, a long time ago.
I can sense the sea-salt scent of her soul sometimes. Her spirit flows all around me and the only thing I can do is be patient. The only thing I can do is listen and hope she can feel my thoughts. And so, I sit there, patiently observing because it is all I can do. I sit and wait until I can feel her presence as strong as ever.
The smell of the sea was her natural scent, the calm waves were a current reminder of her soft-soothing touch, the colourful shoal of fish which represented her ever-glowing spirit. The turbulent waves reflected her emotions, and her emotions seemed to rise and fall like the tide.
As I lay, a colourful shoal of fish tickle my feet and I’ve never felt as close to her as I do now. The sea and her were one and the same. I could feel her in every part of me as the water came alive all around me. It felt traitorous that this was the only way I could connect with her. I was floating in the thing she loved and hated most, the thing that was the truest reflection of herself.
Memories of my childhood became as clear as the sea itself as hours continued to pass by.
I found my first pearl when I was six. I had gone a little too far from the comfort of our beach shade, under our big yellow umbrella, and had come across a lighter shade of sand. The water was clearer, and the air seemed still.
I ran around a bit before tripping over a rock that I was sure wasn’t there before. Turning around to see the villain of my situation, I realized it was an oyster, not merely a rock. Within this creature held the biggest pearl I had ever seen. Running back to my mother after pocketing my treasure, I shared my discovery with her.
She’d smiled sadly at me and told me fables of the same pearl I had been holding. I slept with it under my pillow as I did with the many more I collected. I didn’t realize that one day the sea would take those pearls back and another price of their own.
The sea was angrier than ever. Her eyes had matched the waves then, turbulent and angry. Tears were streaming down her face and the string of pearls had cut and were rolling with the wind back to where they came from.
She had screamed at me that day and I wish I had listened. It made me wish I had remembered her frenzied expression that night. I wish I had remembered her words. I could never forget them now. It felt like they were playing on repeat in my head, “Never take gifts from the sea, Amari. Whatever the sea gives, it will take back. The sea is not our friend, it will destroy us.”
The sea had tempted me one more time, and I had obliged. This time it was a delicate jewelry box, its intricate gold details shining, almost blinding me. The waves had crashed all around us for days, but at least it had left this. It had left me a treasure. I could hear the whispers of the waves beckoning me towards it. I could swear they whispered my name.
The pain I felt when she disappeared would never compare to anything I felt for the rest of my life. She had sat by the water; the sand tickling her feet. I had gone in for just a moment to get a blanket as it was getting late. When I came back, she was gone. Her sandals lay discarded just by the water, but she was nowhere. The waves had finally settled like they had won, like they had gotten what they wanted. A ruby had washed up to shore, but it didn’t matter, nothing did afterwards. Nothing was worth it.
I raced to our house and got the jewelry box, the discarded pearls as well, anything I could remember the sea had left me. I threw them all back as far as my arms would let me, hoping that would be enough, hoping she’d come back. The sea had taken her and all I was left with were her words, “Never take gifts from the sea, Amari. Whatever the sea gives, it will take back.”
The memories were choking me and I felt like I was going underwater. The sea was dragging me to its bottom. I would not let it take me, I would not let it destroy me. It was the sea against me. I was fighting my demons. I struggled against the waves until I lost feeling in my arms. My body was going numb. The sea threw me out of its grasp at last. The vice gripping my lungs had loosened.
There was nothing left for me in the water.
My skin was dry and patchy after sitting on the sand reflecting on my near-death experience. It irked me that my long hours spent in the sea did nothing but add to my torment. I silenced my thoughts and severed my connection to it, watching the sunset as my shadows turned to sunrays. It was already dusk, so I waited a little longer.
My mum had told me, “Everyone has a star but when we die, our stars disappear.” Over millions of stars in the sky, it was strange to think one was just for me. Now looking up at the midnight sky, I wondered what my mother’s star would have looked like although there is only so far my imagination can go.
I always knew there were some things that would only scratch the surface of our barriers and some that would strike our souls at its core. A star was a ball of fire that could burn even the dirtiest of secrets. If stars could just disappear, maybe we were allowed new beginnings. Gazing up once more, now on my back, I imagine my dull little star amid all the bigger ones waiting for a breakthrough and for the first time in a long while, I have space to breathe, courage to imagine.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.