When the sea saves and consoles

The sea inside

by Ramona Aloia

The paper boat floats for a few seconds on the water before tipping to one side and sinking. It is the third I build and I watch it sink helpless. As if the next time could be the right one, as if it were not made of paper, as if it were not inevitable that it would end up curling up on itself and disappear.

Nala asks me every day to take her to the sea. The beach is only ten minutes away, but I have forbidden her to go near it.

I hate the sea.

That going of her and returning tirelessly.

Those grains of sand creep into thoughts, dirty them, then a wave arrives and invades everything. Like my life, swallowed by the sea.

Not like yours, that you get your feet wet in the sea, take a dip in the belly, cool off, laugh and joke with friends. Then you sit on the shore staring at the horizon, breathe deeply in the salty air and give her all those negative thoughts about your arrogant boss and your partner who doesn't give you the attention you want.

And then, again you, who force yourself to bake in the sun to get a perfect tan and then spend hours taking hundreds of selfies to adapt a Bukowski aphorism on the meaning of life that goes with your new skimpy costume.

Obviously you like the sea.

That blue so clear, transparent, that it seems to hide nothing.

But you are wrong. He hides all my pain.

He took my husband and is now keeping him with him, a prisoner somewhere. He took it as if it had always belonged to him, as if it belonged to him by right.

And then I decided: that sea will never touch my feet again, it will no longer wet my skin, not even my thoughts.

Today Nala asked me for permission to go to the beach with her friends since I don't want to go. In the end I agreed, albeit reluctantly.

She knows that her father died along with hundreds of people on a rubber dinghy while trying to reach the mainland, yet, she does not hate the sea. I would like to know how she does it.

The door opens and I see her running towards me, her hair tousled and the sand still stuck to her ankles.

"Mom, I did a lot of dives!"

I take the backpack off her shoulders.

«You should come too, you would like to! If you are afraid of swimming I can lend you my armrests! "

I do not answer.

I see her face darken and light up soon after. "I have something for you."

She unzips her backpack, rummages with her head inside her. When she resurfaces, in her little hands she holds a dozen shells of various sizes, all colored.

"Do you like?"

"Thanks," I can't say more.

Her eyes open wide with new light. "Mom, listen too, there's the sea inside!"

I only realize in that moment how much my husband's death has dried up my feelings. Nala understands it from my eyes, but she doesn't give up. She takes one of the shells, the largest. She barely fits into her palm. It is light brown with white stripes, it almost looks painted. She rests it on her right ear. She looks focused, as if she were waiting.

Her eyes open wide with new light. "Mom, listen too, there's the sea inside!"

She hands me the conch as she keeps hopping with excitement.

She rests it on her ear imitating her own movements. After a few seconds a distant sound comes. She instinctively she close my eyes and see a huge expanse of blue. My breathing has taken the rhythm of the waves, then everything goes dark and I see my husband's face begging for my help. They push the shell away as if she were burning. Nala stops hopping and looks at me with her head tilted to the side of her, her black curls falling over her face.

Maybe my reaction was really out of place because this time she snatches the shell from me and walks away. I hear the sound of the door slamming violently and I have a start. I am ashamed of myself. I would like to run and apologize, tell her that her mother really appreciated her gesture, that the shells are beautiful, but I know she wouldn't believe me.

I remain motionless for a few seconds, staring at the remains of the paper boat inside the sink that have now become a pulp.

Nala's hand arrives silently to remind me that I'm not alone, that I've never been with her.

“You know, Mom, when I dive into the sea it seems to me that Dad is there watching me. If you miss him, perhaps, that's where you should look for him. "

For a moment I would like to be the one to escape, to take refuge in the bedroom, slamming the door and scream that no, I don't want to, I don't want to remember. But Nala's gaze heals me, she so big next to me, so proud, so sure, she seems to me a port, a port where to dock my insecurities. I hold her tight, reminding me of how many times her children save her parents and thanking her for doing it again this time.

 I look out the window. It is almost evening, the sun is taking away all the colors of her, but it doesn't matter. I must do it. For me, for him. For Nala.

As I get ready I feel the agitation assault me, but I have promised him by now, let's go and see the sunset on the beach.

Ten minutes and we're there.

Now that I see it, the sea, which are in front of it, I see it different, still, as if waiting. He is so calm that I have the impression that he wants to apologize. Nala takes my hand and pulls me forward. It seems she has understood that I need an extra push. I take off my flip flops and walk barefoot on the wet sand. She is soft and warm and welcomes my steps with delicacy.

I remain motionless, in the point where I am sure that the water will not be able to reach me. From nowhere, I see a bigger wave forming in the distance and coming towards me forcefully, until my feet get wet. It's as if she has called me, as if she has asked me to come closer.

I give in to that familiar touch, I keep walking watching the sun die on the horizon. I enter the water with all my clothes. I immerse myself completely, and finally cry.

It is not the sea that has to apologize, I only realized it now that it cradles me, that reassures me, that washes me, that consoles me.

It is not the sea to blame.


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