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StoryToTheSeaBegin

 

1.

T O    T H E   S E A

 

 

 

 

 

     To the sea.

     Frank, a desperate man, was driving down highway 8, at 95 M.P.H. in a quest for the sea. The old familiar water of the sea. The calming water of a clean blue ocean. Good old H20. It must be the hydrogen that did the trick. For oxygen, though polluted it may be, he got plenty of in the city. Take two hydrogen atoms to every one oxygen atom and you will be saved. It was just what the doctor ordered. Or would order, if he knew. It was the only thing that would work. The only thing that ever worked. To relieve this… madness.

      He reached over and patted the duffel bag on the passenger seat, trying to stay calm. He unzipped it then zipped it up in a repetitive motion, keeping beat to some unconscious melody. The metal of the zipper felt cool to his fingertips. Quite the contrast to the fire he felt smoldering between his eyes.

      He cracked his driver-side window down about an inch so that he would have some contact with the changing outside conditions, hoping to use the external environment to change his inside condition.

       His world was insane, his thoughts crazy, and his feelings indescribable. As the addict rushes to the drug of his choice, so he ran to the sea and relief from the pain. Liquid liberation. His only “cure.”

      “Like a lemming,” he thought, and somehow he was able to smile, and actually take a full breath. It seemed he hadn’t taken one in a week. With that first good breath he could begin to taste the salt in the air, and as the salt began to penetrate his lungs he could feel the weight upon his chest lighten. He felt as a fish out of water, dehydrated, that had finally received a cool drink of water, the likes of which he hadn’t tasted for days. It was the first step to being revitalized. And as each mile passed, he knew he was creeping closer. Like the parched man in the desert who saw a rain cloud in the distance, he felt hope. He rolled down all his windows, leaving the air-conditioner on full blast. He felt the ocean breeze magnified as the air rushed into the windows of his speeding car. He imagined he was flying as the wind rustled his hair. The air-conditioner fought to cool the warm damp air that poured in from his open windows -- as futile as that of a simple fan in the throes of a hurricane. He could feel the salt in the air, not only by way of his lungs but he could feel it penetrating his pores. His common sense told him this was impossible, but he pushed those thoughts away. He coaxed the air to chase the toxins out from his skin, the toxins that he had gathered from a week in the city. More than his physical body, and more than his emotions—the ocean air cleansed his very soul.

      With adrenaline coursing through his system, he saw the sign. The sign that told him that he was almost at his goal, his private paradise.

      With burning eyes he read, “Highway ends ½ mile.”

      It was everything he could do to keep from pressing the accelerator further to the floor, and instead actually ease up to eventually find the brake and swing his car off the exit. The last exit. The exit he always took when he was at the end of his rope, which seemed to be happening more frequently.

      He placed one hand over onto his duffel bag keeping it from tumbling to the floor as he made a wild turn.

      “Someday I will live here,” he thought, “and the madness will forever cease.”

 

      His routine was to travel to a beach that was not one of the more popular beaches in the area. It didn’t have huge expanses of sandy shores. Its shores, in fact, tended to be strewn with more rocks and pebbles than sand. It wasn’t a bad place to go for a walk, but it did not draw swimmers. Since only a mile away there was a beautiful beach, complete with lifeguards, concession stands, and showers, this small unkempt beach, in actuality, didn’t draw much of anyone to it, other than those seeking solitude. Frank considered this beach his own private haven.

 

      He pulled past the parking spaces and right onto the sand. The only thing he managed to kick off was his shoes, and he did that in the same motion as shutting off the engine and opening the car door. With socked feet he ran down through the sand for the water. It was growing twilight and the beach was empty but for a few stragglers and romantic misfits. No one seemed to notice the crazy businessman in a full suit, tie barely loosened, rushing from his car and into the water. There was no hesitation, and no regret. The salt in the air had started the process, and now the salty water was completing the cleansing.

      From far away he probably looked like a boy rushing to play in the waves, for he was only around 5’8” in height and slight of build. His sandy, light brown hair made him look like he belonged on the beach. Except that if he were a child, an observer would wonder where his parents were, on this secluded beach, now that it was getting dark. Also, how many children played in the ocean in a business suit?

      He tumbled into the waves until he was in up over his head. He frolicked and danced, letting the waves play with his body like a cork. He resisted only enough to catch some occasional air, but otherwise he let the waves have their way with him. Like a rag-doll in a washing machine his body stayed limp and relaxed. In his tumbling he swallowed water almost as frequently as air. He felt helpless, but no longer hopeless. He laughed almost as much as he had cried over the last week.

      He stayed in the water for as long as he physically could. Exhausted, he finally let the waves ride him into shore to the beach where he washed up like a beached whale. He lay on the wet sand on the edge of the ocean, momentarily falling asleep as darkness crept over him. But the coldness had the louder voice as his shivering woke him and kept him awake and uncomfortable. Still, he lay there for as long as he could tolerate, finally forcing himself up on his weary legs and made his way back to his car.

      He rode with the windows still down, only now, instead of air-conditioning, it was the heat that was working full blast.  He slipped off his socks while driving, tossing them to the passenger side floor. He then unzipped the duffel bag he had packed the Monday before, taking out a dry pair of socks. He also removed his suit coat and pulled a sweater from the duffel bag over his head. He rode around this way until the rest of him was semi-dry and then checked into The Lazy Q Motel.

      Although it could hardly be called common, for him it was the same old routine. It was just becoming more methodical. But he wasn’t looking for excitement; he was looking for relief. It was like a fix that increased, and kept increasing until it consumed.

      ‘Tis better to be consumed by the sea, when the only other choice is madness. Perhaps that was how all addicts felt.

      A moderately successful thirty-eight year old man whose little accomplishments felt like lies. Nothing felt real to him anymore. Nothing — but the smell and feel of the oceanscape. The smell of the air. The feel of the ocean breeze. The rocks and pebbles that poked at his soles, through his socks as he ran to the water, finally turning to mushy sand as he entered the cool awakening sea. The feel of the foam and suds as the water churned around him. The bitter taste of the salt water on his tongue, causing violent coughs as it invariably made its way down into his lungs. All these feelings and experiences told him he was alive, and they all led to emotions that told him maybe he was all right.

      A businessman with a life of nothing. No wife. No children. Few serious relationships. Few friends. Few enemies. Few cares. Few worries. Few loves. Few sane thoughts anymore.

      The only thing in abundance for him was anger. It was an anger, which bordered on rage. Slowly it grew, and reached its peak by Friday afternoon at which point his only salvation from actually killing someone was his panicked rush to the sea. It was only a bit more than a hundred miles away, but sometimes the poison built up in his system to a point where he wasn’t sure if he could make it. Even the drive was becoming more and more intolerable. On Thursdays he always filled up his gas tank so that he wouldn’t have to stop on his way to the ocean on Friday. He knew the delay would be torture. It would be just his luck to murder a gas station attendant only a few miles from his refuge. A condition he found harder to control was his speed. Each time his flight to the beach was a little more panicked, a little more urgent. His need to rush grew. Thus, his speed tended to increase. Faster each time. It was only a matter of time before he got pulled over for speeding.

      He wondered how he would react. He knew it wouldn’t be good. Cops were authority figures. Someone who would be blocking his path. Someone who was delaying his fix. Someone who was carrying a gun…

 

      If only it could rain continuously in the city. Perhaps it would wash away some of the dirt, some of the hate. Rain was a cleansing elixir. Perhaps it could cut through his mountain of pain. Rain was nature, and far removed and unaffected by the dictates of man. If only it would rain more often. Perhaps he wouldn’t need his weekly jaunts to the sea. He loved the rain. Sweet pure rain fell from the clouds, cleansing the air and the dirty sidewalks, buildings and streets. The purging, healing, rain. It was not quite as invigorating as the ocean, but it made living in the city almost bearable.

      It just didn’t rain often enough.

      The pounding of the rain, the pounding of his head, pounding… Pounding, until he could not think. With fingers curled up until his nails dug into his palms, he knew that one relief would be to have his fists do the pounding, on what ─ he dared not explore…

      He was now in his motel room, feeling restless, wanting to rush back to the water, but exhaustion washed over him and he fell into a haunted sleep. He dreamt about making violent love to a woman who was old enough to be his mother. He tossed her around like a paper doll. He reveled in his sadism even to the extent where he saw that she was dying. With clenched fists that somehow now had knives in them, he brought them up, high above his head, and he watched in fascination at her panicked filled eyes, as he brought his fists down as hard as he could. But before they came down upon her bare chest he awoke in a sweat.

      He was terrified. Even with the sea so close, still he had a dream like this! In a panicked fervor he got up, and since he lacked the strength to make it to the sea -- he did the next best thing, and climbed into the shower to let the water beat away the dirt and the anguish until his skin was red and wrinkled, and the hot water had long since been dissipated.

 

      A hollow life. What was the point? His career was boring and ineffectual. He had done nothing to distinguish himself from any of the other business drones. He felt like a decimal point amongst numbers. A paper shuffler. Not a number cruncher, but one who is crunched by numbers.

      A hollow life. Alone. No one to share joys or sorrows with. Perhaps if there were someone around for him there would be joys. And perhaps the sorrows wouldn’t seem as bad. But no one has ever broken through. No one has ever been let through. No one has ever tried. No one.

      Then he thought of Claire. Had he really forgot about his wife? And his child? Ex-wife and Ex-child. But neither of them had cared about him, he was sure. They were both now gone, but even when they were in his life he still had no one. Not really. He had never let them through, and they had never really tried. The insulation he felt surrounding him had stayed intact even after a wife and child shared his life and his home. Sharing – But what did sharing really mean? Taking up space around you, sharing breathing air, but never really penetrating the barrier, the separation from the outside world that all humanity had – each living in their own private shells. Touching, but never really being touched.

      It all made him feel… Angry. All his emotions, all his feelings, everything inside him swirled around and boiled up, cumulating to anger. Everything led to anger. All was about anger. Anger was all.

      He was one who never got mad, but felt the anger so deeply, that it led to a kind of… madness. “Dementia” was a word he actually preferred rather than insanity or madness. Insanity sounded too mental, as if something were wrong with your brain. Madness sounded too wild as if you had no control of your actions or thoughts. While Dementia made him think of demons. They came and went, these demons, and the control and therefore the responsibility was outside himself.

       He didn’t really fear anger, after all it was everywhere. It didn’t terrify him… as long as it wasn’t shown. If it was kept and controlled inside oneself then no harm could come from it. The only danger was from those too weak to keep it in. Anger was just a feeling that could not be helped, but the expression of anger was inexcusable. He had really only shown his anger once, and oh how he had paid for that moment of weakness.

      Now he was able to admit that he had much anger inside. Anger that could not be expressed. So what was the answer to his frustration and anger? Actually there was only one cure. No, not a cure… more of a reprieve. It was water, and more than just water, it was, more specifically, salt water. The ocean. His shrine. With it’s crashing, cleansing sodium waves. With the screams of the seagulls. The slow pace of the crabs and snails. The simplicity of the fish. And the clarity of the salt air. It was all his escape. His sanctuary.

      The ocean was the only thing that kept him sane.

 

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      Anger, like a ticking bomb building up inside him. Sometimes he wondered if the effect of the ocean was only to extend his fuse.

      No, it was more than that. It eliminated the bomb. The problem was that everything else seemed to be trying to create new bombs. The ocean therapy worked, only it was a losing cause. It was like trying to swim against surging waves that pushed you back to shore, until eventually it becomes obvious that you can never reach your destination. There were too many other negative influences. Wave after wave. The only cure was to unplug from everything else. There was only one answer, only one direction for Frank: To live—to die—in the ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.

L o s e r

 

 

       Another lonely man. Maybe this one not desperate… better described as desolate.

       Crying over loses.

       When you start out with nothing, and end up with nothing ─ a path that Nate knew well ─ what is there to shed a tear over?

       It’s funny how tears are made of salt water…

       The common horseshoe graph pertaining to the rags to riches to rags story. But in calculations we deal with numbers, and numbers don’t always tell the whole story. We can figure out numbers and statistics, but we can’t always figure out emotions, nor categorize feelings. Randomness is the culprit. Random numbers can affect the symmetry of any calculation, and random events can play havoc with any emotional stability.

 

       Saying that I started with nothing is a blatant exaggeration, more than that — it is an outright lie. Nothing — as in the sense of monetary values, would be more accurate. Starting off poor of worldly goods doesn’t mean that you cannot be rich in other facets of life. Being raised by two loving, if far from wealthy, parents can make money seem not so important. Not having the latest toy or video game can leave a child feeling slightly cheated, but far from a broken heart. A bitter soul can never be sweetened by a bag of candy. As a child I was poor but didn’t feel it. Just as being an adult and becoming rich, I really didn’t value it. For somewhere along the line I learned that the most important things in life were non-concrete things like love and family. 

       That is probably why I didn’t cry after my Lexus had a blowout on the highway and I lost control spinning wildly from lane to lane until I came to rest against the guardrail. My car was totaled. I loved that car. It stood as a symbol of my success. I always kept it clean, it seemed I was forever washing it. My wife used to joke that I waxed it so often that it was my “Wax on, wax off” way of staying in shape. I loved to go off alone, crank up the stereo and cruise down any semi-empty road, feeling the power behind the wheel—it was my temporary escape. I couldn’t count the times that it took the edge off a frantic day. Yes, I will admit that to me it was much more than just a car, a ride, transportation…

       I remember seeing that car for the first time.

       I remember walking into the showroom. Knowing that I didn’t belong there, I told myself I was just doing research for when I could afford a car like this. My wife had been saying that it was time to move up from our usual purchases of used cars to at least have one new car in the family. Surely not a Lexus though, but I could look… I had been upwardly mobile for some time and my cars also needed to be upgraded. But a Lexus was too much of a leap up.

       I can still remember opening the door. Being hit by the “new car” smell. “All new cars have that smell to them,” my wife reminded.

       “Let’s just take it for a test drive… for fun. We can also compare it to other cars we will eventually have a chance of buying.”

       “Oh, yes. That makes sense. Let’s compare this car to a twenty thousand dollar car of any make or model, so that when we buy the lesser-priced car we will forever compare it to the better riding Lexus. We will have our first new car and be disappointed it doesn’t ride like a car that’s more than twice its price.” My wife laughed, and squeezed my hand. “Why not?”

       After our test drive I set my fantasy aside and went out to seriously look at getting a car. I spent months evaluating and reevaluating my choices. My wife took a sideline role by saying, “You need a nice car for business. This will be your car. The choice is yours.”

       After much deliberation and anguish I finally made my decision. Now it was just a matter of getting the best price.

       I was just about out the door to play the dreaded role of new-car-buyer when my wife threw me a curve.

       “How about the Lexus?”

       “Maybe when the kids are through college and we’re ready to retire as millionaires!” I said, only partially in jest.

       “No. Now. I think you should buy it now.”

       I went over all the reasons why I couldn’t do it and she patiently listened. When I finally exhausted all the reasons it wouldn’t work along with my breath, she smiled, kissed me, and stated, “Do it!”

       It wasn’t quite that easy, but after another couple of months I did, and never regretted it.

       I loved that car, but obviously not enough to cry over. It was wreaked, totaled. Pieces of it were all over the highway. But in the aftermath I actually found things to be thankful for. I was alive—practically unscathed, but for a small scratch across my cheek from flying glass. I miraculously hadn’t touched another vehicle, even though rush hour was just starting. And I was ever grateful for having a beautiful wife and two magical daughters to return home to.

 

       Crying over loses, as in the stock market. To know the feeling of being a Bull in a Bear market. More like the feeling of being an ant trying to cross the street during the Running of the Bulls. Taking some hard-earned money and placing it in some highly recommended stocks. But who to trust? Surely I’m not knowledgeable enough to pick stocks on my own. Friends and advisors know more. But alas, perhaps too much in too small a spread, but what could go wrong? Crashes? As in Car? Oh, there are stock crashes too! Just my luck… Bad stocks, bankruptcy, and not knowing when to get out.

       But why cry? What’s done is done. Maybe I actually learned something. And after all – it’s only money. Once lost, money can be regained easier than health, friends, love and family. And even if it is never reacquired, if I never live up to the status I once knew, it is not the end of the world. I may not be able to give my wife and kids all that I want, but the most important gift hasn’t changed one iota. The love is all that really matters.

       Crying. A wash for the eyes? A cleansing of the soul? Crying seems to be overrated. Even losing one’s job – is it reason to cry?

        A dream job. Yes, I was actually a person who loved my work. And I got paid extremely well for it! Oh how I wanted this job, I fought with every ounce of my strength to get this job, and once I got it I flung my whole being into becoming a success at it. I was good at it. I loved it! The hours weren’t long, but they were exhausting –– yet somehow I never tired from the constant challenges. Instead of being a burden, it was exhilarating. It was as close to fun as I dared let myself admit.

       Maybe my grip on reality was only an illusion. Possibly what we think is reality is nothing more than illusion. Maybe the harder we grip this false reality we choke the very imaginary life out of it.

       The Universe can sometimes go to great lengths to show that this is not a perfect world, and sometimes things go on around us that are out of our control. Sometimes things come along to let us know that nothing is forever. No matter how hard we try to hang on to something, sometimes there is nothing we can do to keep it from slipping away. I lost my grip and could do nothing but watch as my dream job faded away. I could always blame it on the economy. Cutbacks. After-all, I wasn’t the only one standing in the proverbial unemployment line.

       I think that it is the first time that I felt like crying since I was a child. The loss of a job… The end of my livelihood… What would it mean? What if it took years to find another? What if I never did find a similar job? I might have to work twelve-hour days. I may get burned out from an unfulfilling, uninspiring job like ninety percent of the rest of the world. Putting in time. Passing time. Surviving. Stagnation. Entropy. Even if I could make ends meat, what if the middle was macaroni?

        Caught in a hopeless web of “what ifs”, I was truly stuck. But when I returned home to my wife’s loving embrace and as my children ran forth to greet me with love and respect in their eyes I knew that I, that we… would be o.k. There were other job’s to be had.

 

 

       “Are you lost?” A voice called out to him. The voice sounded distant, wavery, almost as if traveling through liquid, or the thick substance of time.

       Lost? Was that his mother’s voice?

       “Lost? No, mom.” Yet, suddenly he felt confusion, which spiraled into panic. He was dizzy and grasping… grasping for things he didn’t understand.

       It was only when he awoke from his dream that he remembered that his mom had died, over fifteen years ago. That it was she who was lost… to him.

 

 

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       What is the purpose of crying?

       In the evolution of man when did the trait of tear ducts and the salty emulsion come into being, and how did it prove to be beneficial? A simple wash for the eyes becomes so much more when sadness abounds.

       Crying. Is it a release? As in a dammed up river that is overflowing its banks until the walls eventually crumble and the water rushes forth.

       Crying. Is it an expression? As in pity or sorrow. Letting the world, or even just yourself, know that you are feeling anguish.

       Crying. It is it a communication of the soul? Can we become so blocked from our emotions that we have become disjointed from our very soul? Perhaps crying is the last communication of the soul, letting us know that our direction is off our desired path, telling us “Stop. Regroup. Think. Look.”

       Crying. Is it merely a response when no other response seems available? When there is no solution? Futility. All is lost. No hope abounds. We feel we have tried everything, or at least thought about every possibility. We are sure that nothing will work. There is no purpose to anything. All is delusive. 

        Crying. Should it be saved for when all purpose and meaning have fled, and any rational thought is impossible? Is crying a form of insanity? Maybe just temporarily until we can regroup. A way of stepping out from ourselves and allowing an opportunity to disown all that we are until a time when we can accept that responsibility again.

 

       To some degree I guess that I am macho, for still, even now, I do not cry in public. Not at sad movies, or at funerals – even when they mean so much to me…

       But I do cry. Every waking moment I feel the tears building up inside, uncontrollably raining down when I am alone, and barely suppressed when others are around. Usually this only prevents me from talking to others due to the lump in my throat. I do a lot of nodding, and forcing painted smiles on my face. So much acting, yet without a script. If only life was a movie, I’d have picked a different role. If only I could petition the author for a rewrite.

       It’s when I am alone that the tears win, they come sometimes so strongly that I fear not being able to stop them. My whole being sobs as my body quivers and shakes, my soul withers, and my heart breaks into tiny shards that slice through my weakening dignity. I cry now for loses – not of stocks, or jobs, or cars, or money, or starving third world children. I cry for a wife and two children that I will never again directly be able to tell of my love for them.

        Tears reign down upon my soul, and my cheeks. I know that it is for all the above reasons that I cry. I cry as a release, an expression, and a response to futility, for the end of rationality, out of loneliness, out of insanity, but mostly out of disappear. The end of life. Theirs. Mine—as I have come to know it. All of the things that have mattered to me are gone. Gone without a warning. Every reason I had to live for has been taken from me. Gloria. Jennifer. Janice.

       Five million tears for each are not enough. A waterfall of tears is no more effective than a single drop of water to cleanse the souls of the damned. But washings away dirt only makes mud.

       I live in a triangle. Each of my loves are sides of a wall that surrounds me. Only I can no longer touch or communicate with them, only their presence is felt. They are like pictures in an old photo album that hover about me, and it is actually I who am bound. And their presence is really only my memories of them, what they were – but will never be again. Like old pictures, memories also fade. For there will be no new memories of them. All thoughts of them are in the past, or remembrances of the past. No future. A void in the present. All thoughts of happiness are about the past, and any thought in the present can only be of my submergence in sorrow and sense of loss.

       I am like the last leaf on the tree who has spent his life struggling so hard to hang on, but finally realizing that there is no longer a reason to hang on when all those around you that you have loved and gave you a reason for surviving are gone. I realize that I can no longer be strong, or more importantly – there is no purpose faking it. I have no one left to keep up a good front to. I have lost my reason…

Tears to flood the soul and drown our sorrows. But guess what I found out? Sorrows float. . .




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