I have walked into the ocean once and only once.

Oh I have jumped in it and swam in it and floated right out on the tides.

But walking, that is something I have only done once.


It was late summer and dark. Maybe August. Maybe early September. It was warm, the type of warm that doesn't normally happen on those Pacific Northwest evenings too often. Makes you need to take off your sweater, tie it around your waste and wipe the sweat (which is really only humidity) off your forehead.


It was Elliott and me, alone on the beach; together again after many years.

We were standing somewhere just west of Neah Bay. Because we had found each other on a city street in Seattle and started talking and never shut up. And then we found ourselves in his old Monte Carlo, black, driving through the sunset and into the night.

The drive should have taken two hours, it took six. Because we took the back access highways and the gravel roads. Because we got lost in smoke and laughter and finished off that twelve pack too early.

We stopped for coffee at the old Indian reservation and decided this was it, this is where we stop and wait for the sun to come back up again. So we drove down the coast and parked on an old fishing shore that no one had been to in years.

So there we were on the beach, alone, and quiet after hours of endless conversation. My mother would have called it catching up. I called it starting again.

The beach was small. Too many trees and man-made mountains crowded it, pushing it closer and closer to the sea. I don't think it had a name--if it did, I don't remember it.

Elliott left the car running with the lights shining right on the water, reflecting the small ripples that came and piled up against the sand and then rippled their way right back out where they came from. The radio was on, but not loud. An old mix tape with Lou Reed and Dire Straights and Gerry Rafferty winded itself through the speakers and made itself barely audible, only enough to be enjoyable as we walked down the beach and sat down on the sand.

And the sand was much colder than was expected, seeing how the air was so warm. It was wet and sent chills up my spine as I put my sweater back on and wrapped my arms around my chest.

He asked me if I liked Seattle, if my mother still lived in the castle, if I was happy.

I said yes no and yes and meant them all very firmly with head shakes included for emphasis.

He said good and I couldn't tell if it was good to all of it or just the happy part but I really didn't care. Here I was talking to a boy that I hadn't seen in seven years, or a man I had never known at all.

It must have been around two a.m. when he suggested a swim. And we laughed and told a story or two that we remembered about being children in the pond behind the castle.

So off came our shoes and shirts, and here we were, childhood friends seeing each other nearly naked for the first time, and right about the time that every romantic movie script would suggest a passionate kiss, we suggested cannonballs.

But there were no docks to run off of, no rocks to jump from, so we up and decided that we would walk and walk we did.

The water hit our ankles and then our knees. It was cold, too cold for swimming, but we didn't care and went in anyway. The sand and rocks and seaweed and other such things squished beneath and between our toes and we giggled and made jokes about what it felt like. We walked cautiously; the beer in our belly splashed around, reminding us just how drunk we really were; our inner ears reminded us that balancing was not our number one talent in the moment.

The water must have been up to our chests by the time we looked at each other, simultaneously thinking, what the hell are we doing? But we just kept walking. When it was up to our chins and we could barely touch and keep our heads up, we threw our arms out and started peddling our feet to keep afloat, teeth chattering from being so cold.

He said, I expected the water to be warmer. I said, I could figure out just how cold it was going to be when my pinky toe touched, but I didn't want to ruin your fun.

And he said, oh you were always like that. And he was right, I was.

He moved in close and flipped me on my back and said, I haven't looked up yet, tell me what you see. And I said, you're just going to have to see this for yourself, Elliott.

And so he flipped himself up on his back and together we stared at the stars and pointed out constellations to each other for a while.

It's getting too cold, he said, we should head back in. So we swam back, with the current.

We gathered our shoes and watches and shirts and other assorted things left on the beach and ran back to the Monte Carlo and then sat with the windows up and the heat on high, still shivering.

We sat in the car and watched the sun come up over the ocean, silent. There was so much that we both wanted to say, but this was time to be quiet.

We fell asleep, both huddled in the back seat because it was more comfortable and slept all day.

It was already dark by the time we woke up and he said Let's make the drive home on dark highways. Tiny Dancer came on the radio. The words we sang, the tune we hummed.

when they come, I am always expecting them
not because of intuition (my imagination has run dry)
it's just that I call on them
please come
and with faithfulness I have never expected in my life
they do

 

they love me, but we are mismatched:
their skin is so prickly that as soon as they touch me I bleed
not that I've ever cared
I have never known a sweeter embrace

 

this beach has no beginning
and I am my own parasite
I have been here for so long that
(with words that I know by heart) 
it seems like a tale
that there is a way out
that this night was ever a day

 

Someday, I will call them for one last time
I will make them a present: me
everything of me, they are supposed to eat
alive and not leave one bone behind

 

Outside is the sea leading me to a place
where everything shines with a light I wouldn't remember seeing before
Outside is a real human voice, Outside is touching that doesn't come from a dream
Outside is an exit, Outside is never finding a path back in
Outside is: everything.

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