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. 

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