Awake

By Cameron Mitchell

That day started with the smell of an April morning rain on the Pacific Coast Highway outside of Malibu, which was followed by the blinding sun’s glare off of the whitecaps as the frothy sea met the shore and found us binging on the taste of sashimi…caught, cleaned and eaten right on the pier.  Completely sated, a nap was in order, upon waking there was just enough time for an evening hike.  I remember the distinct echo of a coyote’s howl through the Canyons in the moonlight and the feeling of comfort from you standing so close, even without us actually touching.  You turned back and started to speak, but I blocked the words with a kiss.

You pulled quickly away and I couldn’t see that well, but I heard the distinct sound of you sniffling.

“What is it?”

You took a breath and then stated, “I’m in love with someone else.”

“It’s Brad, isn’t it?”  I asked rhetorically.  I already knew the answer.

You paused…and then nodded…and then stopped nodding.  My heart felt as though it was falling down the side of the hill and part of me wished I could jump after it.  You just stood there.  Why didn’t you try to explain or apologize?

I must have been standing and waiting for some sort of explanation for a minute before I realized that there wasn’t going to be any apology.  So I turned and started walking back to the car.  You didn’t follow me, but just in case you thought about following me, my walk turned into a sprint.  Once I was back at your car I was panting, with tears and mucus choking my breathing.  I didn’t hear anything, I couldn’t smell anything and I could barely see through my crying eyes…I had lost all my senses except for the pain of it.  I couldn’t even think of anything worth doing.

So I began walking out of the parking lot, down to the Highway.  I thought about hitchhiking up to the caves near county line.  Then I changed my mind and wanted to hitchhike to the bars in Santa Monica and go on a bender.  Split between my two options, I crossed the two-lane Highway and sat on a large rock, on the ocean side of the road.

I still didn’t hear your voice, like I was quietly hoping I would.  I didn’t feel your hand on my shoulder and I definitely didn’t hear you say the words I was most hoping to hear, “April Fools.”  Realizing that I was now grasping for any other explanation than the truth, I untied my shoes, pulled off my clothes and ran out into the water.  Now, I have never been much of a swimmer, but that hasn’t ever stopped me from splashing around in the ocean.  This time I wasn’t splashing around, though.  I was swimming, as fast as I could, out toward Catalina.  I didn’t have any intentions of making it to Catalina, I just used the large offshore island as a directional aid.  The faster I swam toward that island, the farther away I was from you.

A way off of the shore I began trembling from exhaustion.  I kept on my present course, just at a slower clip.  The waves probably weren’t getting any bigger, but at the time it sure felt that way.  Getting more exhausted, I let myself sink under the surface for a few seconds to rest and then I reemerged to catch my breath.  After a few minutes of alternating between this resting and what had become dog-paddling, I accidentally swallowed a mouthful of seawater.  I didn’t mind it, actually, as the salty taste woke my senses and made me feel more alert.  Being alert, though, was not necessarily a positive for, after a bit of time, I realized how far out I was and how cold the water was and how I was trembling, both from the cold and from exhaustion…I didn’t want to be in the water any more…I started back toward the shore…swimming as steadily as I could, but when I began to slip under the water without having planned on doing so, I became panicked…my swimming turned from slow strokes to a freestyle dash for the beach.  I kept trying to touch my feet on the bottom of the ocean, as if I were actually getting close enough to land to do that!

My panicked swimming only made me miss-time my breathing more and more and that, along with the added stress on my lungs of being so anxious, put me in even worse shape.  I didn’t want to be in the ocean, I didn’t want to be naked, I didn’t want to be gulping down brackish water, I didn’t want to be here…what was I thinking, I kept asking myself, who tries to swim away from their problems?

All I wanted was to be back in your car, with the heater on.  I could take you not comforting me, I could take you not consoling me, I could even take you not loving me!  But I couldn’t take anymore of the waves, the moonlit waves that sparkled so ominously as they came undulating over me.  My last thoughts were of how my sinking didn’t even create a wake…

 

Cameron prefers the title poet to writer, but dabbles in all media.  At 34 years of age, He has already accumulated enough life experiences to make writing his full-time vocation.  Cameron is currently developing two feature screenplays and a memoir, in addition to his forthcoming poetry chapbook: Riddlings

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