Know What You Are
It’s like this when you stand in the water and wait for the waves to do what they will. You watch for pelicans and you wish you were them with wings instead of long legs that put you at odds with the rhythms of the ocean. You jump, but you might glide. You watch the clouds and your mind wanders when you might hunt. You stand when you might float. It’s like that.
The ocean makes you feel small.
It is a good thing to remember what you are.
An elderly woman emerges from the water. Her skin is a patchwork of freckles. Long ago, her pale skin succumbed to the sun, accepting the tattoo of summer, living with the possibility of cancer. That’s how it goes when you love the sun. She walks with a cane. She rinses her feet before I do. She ignores me when I tell her which of the two foot showers works. She leaves the beach with her fuscia and orange beach blanket folded with military precision and tucked under her arm. She shows no signs of discomfort as she slips her damp feet into Sketchers that match her blanket and walks toward her car.
The crumpled baby diaper that rested on the rail near the foot bath remains as she and I, strangers, walk away. Who dared to bookmark the center of the universe with an infant’s soiled undergarment?
I wonder who leaves that filthy shit for other people to deal with as this elderly woman steps aside for a father and a son--both grown, bearded men--engrossed in conversation about philosophy and failing in every way to see an elderly woman who has survived, and continues to survive, countless suns. The philosophers treated me with the same disregard, but I didn’t mind. All the bullshit over pronouns and who’s what despite the plain truth of nature and life has reduced us to blobs of matter. When identity becomes a blame game, you can’t expect courtesy. We’re all too afraid of the lawyers’ fees that will come with getting it wrong.
My pronouns: Me, myself, and I. When you talk to me: you. When you talk behind my back: she and her--but you make the call when you do the talking. I will be here on the beach dreaming of the day I come back as a pelican--and, honestly, I couldn't give a shit less about pronoun choices.
Crossing the high-rise bridge yesterday, I watched a white heron behave like a seagull who had spent time with a pelican. The bird flapped his wings and played on the thermals at the expense of every graceful glide. He was the dream I wanted to have. He took the shape of the god of survival. His flight was about his place under the sun; Hiroshima and origami and all those nice lessons for good children be damned. Now is the time to live on the earth and touch it like a harp: Hear the sacred music, and fly as you will.
He was small.
Today I did not see the Marine mom again. I saw my daughter, though, as she ran on the beach. And I thought, this is what that young man is fighting for: brilliance, beauty, confidence, a sure voice, and the unshakeable belief that we have a right to be here. No apologies. And we will fly any way we damned well want.