THE WINGS ARE WIDE
On the train, drinking coffee,
6pm, sun is setting,
looked too long, now I have
a sun blob in my eye.
When I woke up that morning in the ancient stone house on Main Street – third floor, second bedroom on the right, above the cheese shop – I was somehow still cold under the two (yes, two) duvets. But hey, I’d made a promise – to a stranger, for that matter – so, off they came, one by one, exposing my underdressed body to the bone-chilling air known only to the Irish. I grinned, I bore it, I stripped off my pyjamas and put on… my fucking swimsuit. What the fuck?
We were going surfing.
Throwing on leggings and whatever meagre layers I’d packed with me, we hopped the bikes in the hallway downstairs and made our way into the bitter morn. We peddled across the bridge among the morning traffic and the school kids, before branching off on the road to Lahinch.
Now, I’ve never been a wetsuit kinda guy. Quite frankly, I damn near got “I hate the beach,” word-for-word, tattooed above my left knee. Still might. But alas, there I was, peeling myself into (yes, one can be peeled in) a damp suit of fake skin that had once pressed against someone else’s almost-naked body. I even had to put on feet. The water was that cold. “What the fuck” echoed over and over again in my brain, probably occasionally passing my lips. No matter — the suit was on, the tide was low, and off we were.
Surfing off the west coast of Ireland in late October was nothing as I’d imagined. The North Atlantic boasted a grey-blue hue and delivered perfect waves as an unrelenting offering. Where I was now, focusing on each white crest coming my way lest I be toppled into the sea, no one could find me. No one could call me, text me, like my Instagram post. Even my best friend, floating roughly 15 meters to my left, could only smile at me, her voice lost to the crash of the waves and the rush of the wind. So this is what it means to be free. Come and get me, but first face the sea.
Unlike the torrid Balinese sun, the coolness of the air and the shallowness of the water which saved us from a constant exhausting paddle provided us ample energy and quiet encouragement. I could have stayed out there for days. So this is meditation.
Walking out of that water, nothing was the same. My life as I knew it was gone; I felt as though I finally understood this. When I would step off that plane once again, everything that had me temporarily grounded in Canada will have dissipated. The most prominent difference? I’m not afraid anymore.
I used to tell myself I never was, but we all know fear is a coy beast.
Rip off the Band-Aid! Drop the ball! Pull the trigger! Let your head drop below the surface! I’ve done all of these things. Some literal, some metaphorical. If I hadn’t, may the wound have festered/the ball never rolled/the race never begun/the water never rushed, cool and cleansing, over my body.
I feel it all. Hah!