Mia Silvan-Grau, Oberlin College '18

I remember the days when my legs hung over the toilet, feet nowhere near the ground even if I pointed my toes. Those were also the days I would stand next to you while you brushed your teeth, my chin scarcely reaching the top of the sink. I used to watch mesmerized as you gargled water, the sound of the ocean at the back of your throat, living inside of you. I was almost convinced it did, the way you would spit on the side of the road, a need to empty out the water. How you told me that those big conch shells held the waves inside of their small pink spirals. It made sense.

The ocean still held a magic you believed in even at forty, one that was palpable when you took me to the beach. You made me love the ocean before I could even pronounce the word. On your shoulders, you ran me into the water, salt water up the nose, boogers everywhere, eyes stinging.  Bringing me above the surf and you looked at me the way you looked at the ocean, wiped the tears, the salt, the hair away, made me believe I had magic living in me too, pink swimsuit days when I still believed in the word.

On 10 p.m. awake nights, you told me not be afraid of sleeping because I was always safe with you in the house. You would tell me the mountain story, a soft meditation, and whisper that my dreams were made of a mind you helped create, that you would never make something that would hurt me.

When you left for that permanent rest, the bad dreams you said were only of a beautiful mind grew more painful by the day. The house didn’t feel safe anymore and neither did sleeping.

I quit the ocean for two years, stopped believing in its magic. I would not believe that its sand glittered gold when the crest uplifted it. It was an act of resistance. If I couldn’t have the ocean with you then I wouldn’t have it at all. But I was also petrified of the crabs, and the sharks, and the big surf if you weren’t there to pull me up, if you weren’t there to protect me.   

I stopped believing in magic the day I learned that night skies were good to wear to funerals. I stopped believing in myself because you were my magic. How could I if I didn’t have you, if I didn’t have the ocean? Eleven years later and I find myself with the same tendency to rid myself of the water, occasionally on the side of the road, occasionally in tears, it’s all the same anyway, just salty water.