Waving Goodbye

Get in. Never mind the night around us. The night swim to end all night swims, now. Steel yourself. Never mind the cold (you’ll soon overcome it; forget it; know nothing of it). Yes, beyond the waves, but first through them; collision of blind water and body, then depths, perfectly indifferent, but lurkers in it. At any moment, a terrifying mouth. At any moment, the loss of up and down, and breathing water, and drowning. 

When I was a child, eleven or twelve, I think, and while visiting my dad in San Diego (for the weekend, as I did every other weekend), I asked, in the late evening, if I could go to “Children’s Cove” (a cove in La Jolla), to swim (and snorkel). My dad, a San Diegan since boyhood, and extremely comfortable with the ocean (under his influence, I was also extremely comfortable with the ocean), agreed to take me for a late-night swim. So, at 10pm, or 11pm (we were both night owls), I swam into the black ocean by myself, while my dad watched from the shore. 

I felt no fear, as with so many young animals, especially the predatory ones, the powerful ones. I swam fearlessly, heedlessly, wildly in a pitch-black wilderness of seawater. Then I saw it, clinging to submerged rock, rayed in moon-silver, my size, if not slightly larger; three or four of its tentacles were floating in the slow currents; the others spidered across the rock, suctioned in place. Again, no fear, but a simple sense that I ought to avoid this large (glowing grey!) octopus, so I paddled a u-turn and swam, without hurry, back to shore. That was the last time I swam the night ocean alone. As I aged, fear crept in. Thus it was—three or four tentacles waved goodbye to my naturalness. 


This is the ninth post of my Hephaisteion, and, as aleatory as my blog has been, a little commentary on its purposes may help my reader(s). Hephaisteion is a forge for my experimentation; to hear that published sound; to discipline it, and myself; to let go of discipline, too, if the mood unravels; to make fools of sentences. What are the purposes of play? Those are mine. When was the last time any of us played naked? Swam naked? Out of fashion, literally. 

But a private show isn’t as satisfying as a public performance; or, in my case, open to the public (the chairs are set up, at least, and the doors unlocked). An empty sheet of paper, displayed to the audience, suddenly fills with words, meanings even, and strange meanings, strange magic. What unseen hand writes on this blank page? What headless mind holds these thoughts, here materialized? “Charmer! Sorcerer!” The crowd cries out, seeing that the words now appearing are curses. “I hex all who see these words,” stains the page. 

Why should this audience be cursed? They came in good faith to watch our magician?—you may ask this, and perhaps having no good answer is the curse. Or, maybe, it is a favorable hex; must all curses be dismissed as unfavorable, especially in the long term? But here is my opinion, at last: the devil wrote these words, and he likes to frighten. He thinks writing that frightens is superior to writing that soothes. Perhaps his curse is just this: you will fear his curse. He loves to laugh, this devil.