My heroine

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!*

It was the afternoon of the second full day on Topsail. We had had plenty of beach time, plenty of World Cup viewing, plenty of deck sitting, reading, idle shopping, late night conversations and so on. I was boogie boarding in the surf with Z&O and David. The tide was almost high. The waves were getting bigger.

It went in cycles: several big, gentle surges, followed by a couple small breaks, and then the ocean would pull back and back building up energy for a series of three or four tall curls. We would race each other to catch the wave, usually hitting it too early, lifted by the surge but left behind as the racing edge swept ahead. Every once in a while timing it just right, balancing just on the crest, born aloft by foam, speeding towards the beach. "Did you see how far I got?!" we would yell at each other.

And sometimes trying to grab it too late, watching, watching as the wave reared up and the lip started to curl over, jumping to grab it, but caught underneath, tangled up in the noise and the bubbles, water up the nose, water over the head, trusting that gravity would take hold sooner than later, gripping the board until we found ourselves standing shin deep and ready for the next one.

I kept my eye on the kids, decent swimmers both, smiled at David as he called out his concern that his glasses strap could simply be pulled over his head by a wave at the right angle, and rode up the face of a couple surges slapping down on the far side of the crest and testing my body for fatigue. We were all having so much fun. I didn't want to quit, I didn't want to make anyone else quit, but when is it too much?

A wall of water gathered ten feet away. It was going to be a really good one. I'd ride just this one more, and then maybe call it quits, but this one was going to be good. I turned to towards the beach and kicked to get ahead of it. It lifted me. I was almost flying. But then the real crest smacked me on the back of the head and grabbed my own glasses strap, the one holding my old lady, over-the-glasses sunglasses tight(ish) against my face, and theoretically holding my real glasses against my face along with them. I could feel the strap slip up over my hair. I let go of the board and clawed at my face, catching plastic and neoprene and holding it as tightly as I could while the board yanked at the tether on my wrist. Finally the wave subsided, and in my hands I clutched black shades and a black strap. My tortoise shell real glasses, the ones with the preposterously expensive takes-a-week-to-be-made-because-I-have-horrible-blinding-astigmatism progressive lenses, were no where in my woefully limited sight.

This same beach had claimed my beloved prescription sunglasses 2 years ago, hence the old lady over shades, and here I stood like a complete idiot grasping worthless plastic. I shrieked and gesticulated.

David paddled over. Z paddled over. O went to get is goggles so he could peer into the water. My sister came from her blanket in the sun.

We combed a 20x20 section of water, from sand to break line. Squinting at the shells rolling at the edge of the surf, feeling with our toes. I tried to hope, but really, this water was roiling, waves and under tow moving all the time. There was no telling where one small object would be or even what direction the water would move it. In to the land? Out to the deep? Down shore? Back and forth in some limbo of sub surface dynamics?

I don't know how long we looked. I tried to be calm, but the growing awareness of how completely fucked I was was hard to fight. I am functionally blind without my glasses. Maybe I would be able to read with a book two inches from my nose, but all other vacation activities were about to coming to a complete halt, and I would have to sit helpless in the passenger seat the whole long drive home. I need my glasses as much as I need my right foot, more really. As much as I need my thumbs. And did I pack my old, out of focus pair as back-up? I did not. I stand here, dripping and crying at the edge of the Atlantic and admit to you that I am a complete boob.

At one point, when I started sobbing, David splashed over and embraced me. "Can we get Sarah to overnight something from home?' he asked.

We moved bedrooms last fall. I don't even know where I put my back up glasses. I would guess I had been smart enough to put the somewhere on or in my dresser. Right? I am a smart ape? Right? Who knows? I kept sobbing. "I don't know," I cried. "I don't know. And it will take a week to make new ones. And they are so expensive. I don't know."

"I need to keep looking," he said.

I gasped a deep breath and nodded. I kept looking too. I kept looking past the point of having any hope of finding anything and thought more than once that I should tell the others to stop too. "This is stupid!" I yelled into the wind.

This went on for how long? 10 minutes? 20 minutes? I have no realistic idea.

Then Z stood upright and raised her hand in the air. She yelled for David, giving him an imploring look, unsure if she should proclaim victory. "Are these the right ones?"

My 11-year-old girl found my glasses with her preposterous prehensile toes and saved them from the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.

The four of us embraced. "Thank you! Thank you!" I repeated, sobbing and laughing. "Thank you."

Vacation was not ruined.

All the adrenalin in my system made me shaky and nauseated. O put his arm around me and leaned his cheek against my arm. "I think you need to go inside and sit down," he said.

I will stay out of the big waves for the rest of the week.

*from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by S.T. Coleridge


  1. Hurray for Zelda! Hurray for vacation! Hurray hurray hurray!


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