There is a certain weight that fear carries which Nelly never seemed to possess. Her statuesque surfer’s frame had an ease and grace that commanded strength. I remember my heart racing and my stomach twisting as Nelly tells me for the third time. “When you hear the crash of the waves that’s when you run and jump!” Cliff diving, did not need warning signs to express the dangers that were inherently held in its perceptive heights but further instructions would have been nice. I never did hear the crash of the waves, I just took off running when she did.
Was it my blind trust or my need to follow through, the culprit behind my emphatic commitment to this endeavor. To this day, I can never be completely sure.
I remember jumping straight out as Nelly had and seeing the waves recede below and feeling weightless with time slowing to a crawl. I never envisioned the need for balance, falling straight down but looking back, is there such a thing as controlled chaos? I pinwheeled my arms to keep from pitching forward as panic rose at the thought that the waves would somehow defy all tides and not rush back in to meet me. I took a deep breath as I tucked my arms and closed my eyes. I hit the water crashing in so hard that my toenails separated slightly and bled for a week when I walked further than a mile. In the space of time before that, I struggled to find which way was up because of the murky depths of the ocean. The under-toe of the wave now receding and rolling me like human playdough. The ache to breathe in my chest threatening to engulf. I felt a jerk and pain as Nelly’s hand had a fist full of my hair and pulling me to the surface.
I gasped for air as we bobbed in the water and she incredulously asked, “What are you doing? There are sharks in the ocean.” Her words not necessarily registering or wanting a response, as we swam parallel to the shore to avoid the undercurrent. I remember sitting in the sand, looking upwards at the top of the cliff, with the throbbing of my toes and salt water running into my eyes, listening to the odd echo in my mind that played on repeat “There are sharks in the ocean.” This is a fact that I was aware of and yet, somehow a part of me was perplexed with the allegory of events.