A rock lives in my foot. A small pebble has a permanent home in my left big toe. It moved in six summers ago, while I was on a date on a beach in Queens. My partner Meg and I had just started smooching and she worships the ocean. I do too, but as I don’t worship shark attacks, jellyfish stings, undertows, or tsunamis, I’m more cautious than Meg when it comes to kneeling at the salt water altar. If Meg had her way she’d spend years out to sea, surfing a small piece of driftwood, living on seaweed, barnacle hugs, and sunshine.
Five minutes into our beach date Meg started swimming for the horizon and pleaded with me to come with her, tempting me with the sexiest of swim moves — the breaststroke. I wanted to follow her (and her breasts) all the way to the next continent, but I didn’t dare. “You go!” I said, “I’m happy here.” “Please,” she begged. But I couldn’t. Or I thought I couldn’t. Hugging the shoreline, water barely past my waist, I took comfort in knowing my drowning risk was minimal and shark attack possibilities were drastically reduced.
From the shallow end I watched Meg get pummeled by waves in the deep end. Each time, I’d be almost certain she was a goner until her head would emerge in a jack-in-the box of laughter. Yes I had FOMO. But more than that I had FODARHD–Fear Of Dying A Ridiculously Horrible Death. From where I was I knew I could sprint to a higher elevation the second a tsunami reared its terrible head. Knew a shark would need to grow feet to catch me. I was celebrating my survival odds when it happened: A wave hit Meg, and just as her smile resurfaced, I saw the wave wasn’t slowing down or getting any smaller. I tried to run, but it was a Hulk Hogan of a wave, and I was a kid who the picked-on kids pick on.
Within seconds I was wrestled to the ocean floor, which might have been OK had I actually hit the ocean floor, but I didn’t. I hit something hard and sharp. Peering into the blood stained water I spotted a giant concrete block with chains spilling out of its center like intestines. I limped back to my beach towel looking like a shark had eaten my left big toe and spit it back onto my foot. “If only I’d been in the deep end,” I thought, “the water would have broken my fall.” If only I’d not tried so hard to stay safe––I would have been safe.
The date ended early with Meg carrying me back to the car, a red carpet of regret trailing behind me. When I cleaned the wound, one pebble remained embedded in my foot. I suppose I could have had it removed, but kept it as a reminder: Sometimes being your own lifeguard means encouraging yourself toward the deep end. Following love all the way to the horizon. And beyond.
Love, Andrea 🖤
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