Cameron Smith-Barcelona Spain Europe Beach Abroad Mediterranean Sea Water Girl Sunny Summer .Pdf

Letting Go

I have always wanted to be a mermaid. I have longed for the ocean as a second home. I dream of swimming beneath the cool waters, hair flowing, tail flapping, schools of colorful fish passing me by. Whenever I used to go to my pool, I would get a long-sleeved shirt, put my legs through the neck hole and tie my knees together at the top. The bottom of the shirt would stay open, acting as a set of fins. At the beach, I would wear plastic fins and crystal-clear goggles and swim around with all kinds of tropical fish. Even at 21, I still long for this fantastical dream. Yet, for a long time, this dream had become a terrible nightmare that haunted me during my sleep and waking moments. To be near the water was to be near death.  

My family and I would go to the beach whenever we could. One hot summer day, my family and I went to Crash Boat in Aguadilla, one of the most popular beaches in  Puerto Rico. When one gets there, the visitor’s attention is immediately drawn to a bridge dividing the beach in two sections. The right side is where families usually settle down with their radios, portable barbecues, lounging chairs, coolers and big umbrellas to hide from the sun. While, to the far left, families with small children gather to enjoy a more peaceful time with less fuss. I don’t know what made us go to the left side that day, something we had never done before, but we did. The day was humid, the air heavy with the smell of salt, “pinchos” and deep-fried pastries. On the horizon, one could see rain falling on another part of town, indicating that we only had a few hours to enjoy the beach before it reached us. The waves were a bit choppy, but nothing we hadn’t seen before.

We started undressing; I had a long-sleeved black rash guard with a green bathing suit underneath. I waded into the water with my brother next to me. We put our goggles over our heads and dived into the cold water. That first shock is always my favorite. It is like being awakened from a bad dream, and all of one’s senses are on high alert. I swam for a while trying to identify fishes that swam under and next to me. Crash Boat is known for its clear waters, but that day the view was obscured as rough waters lifted the sand. The waves were starting to become irregular and I could not time them. Everyone seemed fine, but I felt uneasy. I decided to stand where the water reached my knees until the waters decided to calm.

I saw the wave and it saw me. It was bigger than the others. One that did not belong so close to the shore. I do not know what compelled me to do it, but I turned and ran. The wave tackled me from behind and I went down hard. I hit the shore with my left shoulder and I cried out in pain as the wave enveloped me. It pulled my hair over my face, blinding me. In my panic, I sucked in a breath and was met with salty water and sand-filled hair. It happened in seconds, yet it felt like I was underwater for minutes. As the wave receded, I got on my knees, yanked my tangled hair back and ran to where my sister peacefully lounged. I sat down beside her cradling my shoulder and breathing hard. I glared at the ocean with pure wrath and betrayal. No one seemed to have noticed that I had almost drowned right in front of their eyes.

“Did you see what happened?” I asked my older sister breathlessly.

“What do you mean?” She turned her head to look at me. Her eyes widened as they took in the state of my hair.

“Oh my god what happened to you?” she said laughing.

Tears gathered in the corner of my eyes. “I saw this big wave and I got scared, so I turned and ran to the shore and it threw me to the ground. I hit my shoulder and it hurts really bad.” I finished and started crying.

“Ay, Fabi, don’t cry.” Her smile wavered. “Here, let me help you get the sand off.”

“I’m not going back in the water,” I said while wiping the salty tears that rolled down my face.

“Then come, I’ll use our water.” She said and helped me clean up with fresh water bottles.

After that day at the beach, my life was not the same. I would get anxious and have panic attacks if I got too close to the beach. Whenever I dreamt of the beach, I dreamt of escaping it. I dreamt of skyscraping waves chasing me and my family until they caught us. They chased us up mountains, through streets and even to my front door. I was terrified of the beach, but the ocean always had my heart. That is why I fought for it.

In the following years, I learned to accept the fear with the support and love from my family. We practiced exposing myself to the ocean just a little every time we visited the beach. At first, I couldn’t get out of the car. To this day, I cannot go to the beach with my entire family because of the dreams that still haunt me. I can only go with one or two of my family members, but not all. While I still have a long way to go, I have learned to not let the fear overtake me completely to the point where I cannot function. Nowadays, I embrace the waves that brush against my feet. My new dream is of one day submerging myself completely without the fear of being beaten by the waves that crash on the shore.