Ashley Wilda

Author

Month: June 2017

Wind. Ocean. Me.

The wind whips in a grey sky, intensifying as we climb the steps to the beach, diminishing again as we descend. Somehow warm and cold at the same time. Salty, moist. Sand ricochets in pale streams across the shore, minuscule particles stinging my shins. The pain almost feels good in a weird, sadistic way, like scratching an itch too hard.

The sea is in a frenzy, lines of whitecaps charging the beach, waves steely soldiers. Foam accumulates in burgeoning, beckoning piles at the wash line, round pieces of fluff pinched off and whisked away across the sand like evaporating tumbleweeds or dust bunnies.

I am drawn to the water, the open wildness of the surf and horizon, like I always am.

I run down to the beach and into the water, which is all at once cold and surprisingly warm. Soft. Surging about my legs, white and clear beige and transparent gray swirling about tan skin. Rule-less. I belong here. I am understood. I am free. The hollow place inside me is known and acknowledged and respected. Unhidden, Given a stern nod of recognition. Felt. Real. Who I am and where I’ve been and what I feel and who I love, validated. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone here. Don’t have to pretend. I just am. Like the ocean.

My bare feet step deeper, farther than the others are willing to go. I spread my arms to the wind, embracing the sea. I stand. I exist. The wind cleans me, takes me out of myself, out of my own head. I smile.

And I can breathe again, breath I didn’t even fully know I couldn’t reach, or that I was deeply missing.

Verdict: Broken, and Beautiful

1.

Dolphins.

Grey broad backs rising clean and wet out of the water. Gentle. At home. Just themselves. Graceful.

Seeing them makes me want to cry. I almost do.

Verdict: Beautiful.

2.

The mangled thing inside my chest, like crooked pieces of machinery, the gears and rods that make my heart beat.

Crushed and left to hang, barely together, by a giant’s apathetic fist.

The hollow is silent, empty.

I don’t work anymore.

Verdict: Broken.

3.

The soft way the brisk seawater foams and fizzles around my legs.

Delicate white infrastructure, poofy, like sponge cake or dandelion thistles blown in the wind.

I love the sound it makes, evaporating. I love the friendly hissing of a wave’s end, contentedly resigned to having reached its limit and crashed into little things, small ripples where children’s feet play, pretending to be horses.

I remember.

The ocean doesn’t feel sad, or angry. It doesn’t know. It just is.

Verdict: Beautiful.

4.

Looking back at my footsteps in the sand, seeing them alone, just imprints, fast disappearing.

I remember a time when I could look back and see two sets of toe prints, wet on slate, one bigger, the other smaller, the one following the other, sometimes first, sometimes second. Or dirty footprints, coal black on quiet, echoing tile halls. Always together.

Lonely feet. It didn’t use to be this way.

I like to close my eyes and pretend it isn’t. But sometimes the comfort hurts too much.

Verdict: Broken.

5.

And lastly (and yet), the sunrise–magenta, whole, clear and glowing, round.

Rising as if steadily pulled by a transparent string on a strong arm from beneath the ocean and into the pale purple morning sky.

The ocean is calm in breathing, respectful greeting. All is right.

The clouds mirror the rising glory’s brilliance, like small, happy cotton balls pulled out, stretched, misted glass to grace the exchanging of the moon.

Verdict: Beautiful.

I watch, and I (Verdict:) am Broken. Somehow together, the sunrise and I, are broken and beautiful. The tired, hopeful, bleeding thing inside determinedly beats its wee, shattered wings in miniature flurries, trying to break free and reach the home, the countersoul it has lost, although its cage is itself, an impossible prison.

Yet that small hollow shines, with good and beautiful gone-by’s, preserved in full as long as the little bird’s wings keep beating, no matter how crushed. No matter how alone.

I have found that all beautiful things now make me want to cry. Sometimes I do.

I guess, can this mean, maybe I am beautiful, and broken, too.

Your Turn

When you can’t follow your heart

‘Cause it’ll just screw you over

When you can’t follow your head

‘Cause it will trap you in a box

What will be your guiding star?

This ache in my chest

Drives me straight to you

The caution in my mind

Tells me to wait for your move.

What are the rules to the game now?

How can I find out, when I don’t even know

What game we are playing?

My heart doesn’t want to take turns.

My mind says I should avoid

Taking any risks with my love.

My compromise is to kick the ball

Into your half of the court

And when I get tired of waiting

For you to return it to me

I give it an extra shove for good measure.

If my heart reigned there would be

No separation between us

No recognition of any halfway line.

So I guess it’s good there are two of us.

But still I wonder

What’s going on over there,

On the half of the field I can’t see?

I wish I could just walk over and ask

But my head keeps me

To my half of the green.

I wish I could ask what you think

About the way things are now.

I wish I could stop pretending.

I wish for just five minutes

We could live on a field without lines

And just be us

Even if we have to go back

To being players after.

But that’s not my play to make.

And so I will have to be content

With sitting here

Looking at that ball

And waiting for whenever you decide

To kick it back to me

If I can only resist

Taking it back

And throwing it over to you again

In hopes of an answer.

Snapshots from a California Day

  1. A slow wake-up in a bed that’s entirely too big for me. Reading, lying there, a full blown meltdown. Had to happen sometime. Emerging into glorious coastal sun, palm trees lining asphalt. The Donut, tiny shop run by a small Asian woman with an accent, cash only, $1 a piece. “I’ll take four, and a small coffee.”
  2. Thinking about being alone and feeling alone, two different but not mutually exclusive things. Because I’ve felt alone, actually being alone carries a weird kind of relief–I don’t have to reason with myself about why I feel alone. It makes sense–I’m actually alone. I know that’s not the real reason, but hey, it’s nice to feel normal for a while. You take what you can get. Yet being alone makes feeling alone even bigger.
  3. A table with an umbrella, a good book, a journal, watching the people go by. A sweet old dog graying about the muzzle. Musing on the many virtues of dogs, the first and foremost being the unstoppable urge to help you when you’re sad–“oh no, oh my gosh, you’re sad?! oh boy, this will not do. lots of kisses and tail wags…”–and an unquenchably happy outlook on life–“the world is a good place and i love you.” A sum of the entire philosophy of a dog. Healthy. Maybe I should adopt it… or better yet, adopt a dog. I wish. I wish a lot of things.
  4. Walking back to my Airbnb, blister on my right foot annoying under Chaco straps. Sitting under a big, beautiful tree–Eucalyptus?– with my luggage on the curb. Smooth silver bark, branching twisting limbs, a vital burst of rich green leaves. Cross-legged, singing along to Needtobreathe. “We are the outsiders…” “I know that I’m in reach, ’cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful…” The mailman. Cars passing on the quiet street.
  5. A car slows, white, curly haired girl with sunglasses in the driver’s seat. Reunion hug, two not-quite strangers taking a risk on sister-souls we had only just begun to discover on an island far, far away over coffee, chocolate fish, and an unmade bed raft floating in a messy room. No pretenses. Tears allowed. Lots of sourceless laughter. The potential for the best kind of friendship, only a handful of hours old. So here we are, ready to begin again. A Starbucks stop–more coffee. The talking starts as the car wheels roll and won’t stop until way late in the day. Playing catch up, topics bouncing like hot potatoes, the connections somehow making sense to only us, having no idea five minutes later how we got to where we are, warming up and relaxing by the minute, obnoxiously punctuated by Siri’s not-quite-helpful driving directions. The 101, traffic, the coast and mountain-hills, the vast ocean, deep bright beautiful blue, freedom crashing foamy white on coast, layered haze of horizon, surfer colonies in the water. Our conversation deepens as the drive stretches longer, stop and go traffic, Spanish architecture, cute houses with wavy rich-red terracotta roofs. Both of us, having just experienced the hardest months of our lives. Both of us, understanding heartbreak. Both of us, trying to find our footing in a familiar yet unfamiliar world. Both of us, trying to find someone and somewhere to belong. Both of us, pasts stretching into a dreamed and uncertain future. Both of us, just two college girls who have hearts that feel big and fall hard. Do any other differences matter? It is nice, this luxury, to have someone so far away from each other’s everyday lives to talk to. Someone to trust. We reach Ventura, the car slows, the chatter does not.
  6. A quaint one story house, stucco arch, double red doors. Quiet and perfect. Excited, bouncing dog with eager brown eyes–part German Shepherd, part dingo?–with the leaping energy of a million puppies and a trusting spirit, requesting a belly rub within the first five minutes of knowing me (the name is Lady). A bedroom vacated just for me, bright stripedy sheets. Children’s books on the shelf, rows of treasure worlds and whimsical imagination. We finish the donuts, talk launched into the realm of fiction–characters and writing and reality and fantasy and feeling and in the end, all that makes us human. Sitting outside, in the sun, reminiscing old adventures and faces–so far away, yet also like yesterday. Equally and simultaneously. The outdoors and wetsuits and gallivanting around with Kiwis and internationals, strangers made family in a weekend, guys and girls, more equal and less sexist and stronger and braver and funnier than we’d ever seen it. Friends for me, more than friends for her. Ex-somethings.
  7. The topic circles around back to that infinite topic, almost universal experience–heartbreak. ‘How do you move on?’ I ask, implying the rhetorical. She shakes her head. No clue. Me too, girl. Me too. Maybe the problem is that we don’t want to. (It’s definitely mine. You can’t move on if you refuse to let go. And I’ve dug my heels in. Sigh. I’m so stubborn.) In a world that wasn’t broken, I think people would only choose once. We’re not meant to choose, I mean really choose, more than one. We’re not meant to lose people. She agrees with me. We both admit we’re not over it. Him. Hims. And we don’t know if we ever truly will be. Especially if there’s a chance, however slim. A chance of things being different. But the problem–and the miracle–is that there’s always a chance. We can’t help playing the ‘what if’ game. Irresistible, all-encompassing.
  8. Out for a drive, the harbor, toothpick masts bristling and tangled and white. Italian food. Fettuccine with white sauce and clams–too much but delicious. Refusal to let me pay. Sun sinking, drive up a tall, brushy hill. Looming wooden cross at the top, old (200 years? 100? 72?), trying to tell us something. A story. Randoms gathered on the hill. I try to guess their stories. Father and son duo, they ask for a picture. Father, well-groomed, shock of white hair. Son, stands wide and solidly, chain around his neck tucked under his shirt–dog tags? Quiet thanks, man’s hand on son’s shoulder, fatherly, lingering. The son doesn’t mind, a connection between the two. I wonder where he’s going, if this is a goodbye. Families, kids, collegers with bright Patagonia fleeces and Navajo blankets perched atop a column, watching the sun sink. Couples. Holding hands, fingers entwined. Him, a hand softly scratching across her back. Her, beanied head with short green-streaked blond hair peeking out, nestled in the crook of his neck. He holds her close. There’s space in my heart, space at my side. I find myself wishing a particular someone is with me. It feels like he should be. But then again, it always does. Shades of blue mountains, rolling and peaking at obtuse angles above the city-town nested satisfyingly below, the avenue cutting through, wide and straight. The ocean, the great expanse, both wild and inviting yet comforting, its big blue now soft and deep, sleepy yet forever alive and awake. Huge islands in the distance. Santa Cruz–my friend’s Turangawaewae. Her place to stand. There’s a rock with a hole you can’t quite make out, but on clear days she swears you can see right through it. The swooping, dipping, bay-lined coast. Bushes of waving yellow wild flowers, big and bright, others white with yellow layers in the center, drawing me in–petals so soft and cheery, I want to get lost in them. Fingers brushing reverently, in tune with something good and greater. A tree, low and twisting, I decide it’s best not to climb–down is harder than up, and she says she’s no good at catching people. Bare feet on cool grass. The drive down, her favorite road–Foothill–as the sun goes. Dusk. A skunk family–babies! six of them?–emerging from a storm drain, all fluffy and almost certainly smelly and adorable–I just want to snuggle them but we hide in the car instead. The mother chases her curious children, scoldingly, back to the safety of their hole.
  9. House, home. A hug from another mother. Smiles and laugh lines, tea in a duck mug, funny stories and pictures, stalking hot Kiwi guys on Facebook, never serious. Spirit soundtrack, stories of toddler personality from childhood. Me–rebel running off with freshly folded laundry, doing exactly what I’m told not to precisely because I was told, sticking my tongue out to test the air temperature, horse crazy days. Her–reported first word ‘outfit,’ a pink velvet skort in a black truck full of tattooed saviors, a five-year-old ancestor with a smart mouth and a taste for beer. “That’s where I get it from,” she says with a smirk. We’re so tired, laughing at anything and everything. I’m actually happy. This is what it feels like again. But I still miss him, even in the happiness.
  10. We hug goodnight, now actually feeling like sisters. “I’m glad you came,” she says. I am too, very much. I close myself in my room for the night, feeling weirdly at home. I hug my stuffed animal puppy close, closing my eyes, remembering. So much I miss. So much I just want back. So much I just want to experience over again. But I am glad to be here. I pray about it–all I can do for my ‘what-if-ing.’ Hope is a strange thing, a freedom and a trap. But I am glad for it, and now am addicted to it, like the rest of humanity. Who isn’t? Turn off the light–the darkness is thick and complete and a little scary. Crawl under the reassuringly heavy blankets, hug my snuggle-buddy very very close, as close as memory, and quickly lose myself to sleep’s constant embrace.

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