Searching for Sea Glass

Soon after I arrived on campus in August, I was met with the unpleasant surprise of my relationship ending out of the blue. To make matters worse, there was no real explanation. A normal Facetime turned into some of my most distraught moments, confusion and anger and sadness assaulting me simultaneously. 

What hurt the most was not even the end of the relationship, or the lack of respect I was shown during the end, but rather losing the person I had called my best friend for the last five years. I had grown up with him. Who was I without him? A terrible reality rocked me:

I didn’t know. 

So, there I was, back on campus during a pandemic while my best friend and biggest support system had just disappeared. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Those were some of my darkest days. 

While the way he went about ending the relationship was unfair and disrespectful, it gave me the chance to become my own person again. I had become so caught up in his life, playing the role of therapist, that I had lost sight of who I was. I’m happy to say that through a lot of healing, I have started the journey of figuring out how to get back to who I really am. 

Writing has always been something I have relied on to help me through difficult times, so this was no different. Below is a creative nonfiction narrative that serves as a reflection of the relationship and its end. 

 

… 

 

The beach was quiet when we arrived, just us and the winter waves. The dull gray sky and the murky, mysterious turquoise waters created a mild tension, a moderate feeling of uneasiness. In hindsight, I see that this feeling foreshadowed our future. But in those moments, we didn’t know- how could we?-  that a year from then I would be walking the same beach looking for the same sea glass, the same sea hurling itself onto the sandy shore. Only this time I would be alone. And you would be no more than a stranger. 

 

I kept my gaze downward, eyes glued on the sand, searching for a sliver of color peeking out from between the grains. You knew how excited I became with each additional piece we discovered, so you kept your gaze downward, too. You’d do anything to make me smile, and that included scrupulously searching for sea glass in the sand. 

 

Our fingers and faces became frozen as the winter wind assaulted us cruelly, the sunshine mounting a futile attempt to warm our frigid bodies. You wanted to go back to the car. But there’s more here, I know it I said. When you finally got me to turn around and walk back in the direction that we had come, our progress was slow. As we walked over our own footprints, I couldn’t help but keep searching. I knew with each step I took that I was leaving potential discoveries behind me, buried in the sand. It made me uneasy. But you dragged me along, back to the car where you could warm up while I was busy dreaming of the day we’d return. But we never would. 

 

And as we walked off the beach that day, my pockets sagging with the weight of soft sea glass, smiles spread across our freezing faces, I thought I’d never lose you. Our love was comfortable, easy. But just like the ocean, even our natural love was utterly unpredictable. Who would have ever predicted this? 

 

 …

 

A year has passed and the same beach remains in its place, waiting for those two people to return to watch its waves with wonder. But the person who walked across these grains of sand with you no longer exists. The me that stands strong on this sand has lived without you for months now, free from the suffocation of your love. Free from the stress of your stress. Free from you. Free. 

 

I squat down to get a better look, my quads burning despite the freezing air. My frigid fingers gently caress the sand, methodically moving the grains back and forth, back and forth, whispering gently, I’m here. I know it’s here, the sea glass, but I just can’t see it. It was right there all along—our inevitable end—but just like the sea glass, the truth lay buried beneath layers of sand, occasionally connecting with a ray of sunshine and glinting to offer a glimpse of what lay below. But unlike the sea glass, I wasn’t searching for it. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was actively burying it beneath the sand. Out of sight, out of mind. But it's only a matter of time before erosion gets its way.  

 

The wild waves crash lightly against the tired sand, fizzling, foaming at their mouths whispering to the battered, broken glass come back to us. No, I scream, they won’t. I won’t. I can’t. I no longer recognize who I was when I was with you. And for that, I am beyond thankful. I no longer need you to pick up the pieces for me, nor find them in the first place. I walk along the beach, collecting bits of broken bottles that I no longer need- or want-  you to put back together. There is beauty in the broken. 

 

And as I walk off of the beach, I can’t feel my fingers or my face. But what I do feel is free. My soul soars across the sand and the sea and bolts back into my body. I feel alive. 

 

Tossed and turned in the waves for years, the graceful glass is no longer rough around the edges. Standing the trial of time, the glass persists, refusing to disappear: smooth and smothered, beaten and battered, but beautiful.