It is a gray, thick day. Early October storms cause the shoreline to be fuzzy with mist and salty spray from the sea. It isn't raining but the air is heavy with the mist and splash of the waves on the rocks. The two of us, my sister and I, are clawing and tripping our way from rock to rock with tidal pools whirling around their bases. Her long blonde bangs are clinging to her forehead, damp with the sea and the sweat of her exertion. The ocean is everywhere but hesitant to swallow up the protruding cliffs and speckled black breakers of its force. Once we reach the top, we fling our arms wide as a wave crashes up against the cliff we’re standing on. We welcome its power. We dare it to swallow us up. We are not afraid. We are stronger.
The water beats our perch, angry it cannot take us down with it. I turn and start running back to the beach. I tumble towards my mother many hundreds of feet away, she is lying on her stomach with her bright pink jacket under her. She is searching for shells, slippery pebbles and sea glass. I almost reach her and remember that I left my sister on the rock. I stop running and turn around. She's gone. My throat drops to my stomach. Oh God. I turn back around to call to my mother. But she has disappeared, too. Not even her jacket remains.
I turn back around and remember that I am alone. I came here alone. I will leave here alone. That day on the beach was twenty years ago. I am no longer strong. The ocean won. It crashed up against me with the memory of what was lost. I am humbled by its permanence and quieted by my insignificance.
I close my eyes.
She lifts up a milky green piece the size of my fist and smoother than polished alabaster. The ocean did this. I took it from her and turned it over and over in my small gritty hands. This started out crystal clear and sharp as a knife but after days in the sand and sea, the glass has been changed. It isn't dangerous anymore.
It's beautiful, isn't it?