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Six and a half years I loved him.
Six and a half years until we realized no matter how much love there was, we couldn’t talk about what was hard.
But this story isn’t about how lonely I was or how he disappeared each night.
This story is about how the ocean got me through it.
If you’ve experienced heartache, you know the seemingly endless desperation of betrayal, jealousy, sadness, and anger coursing through your veins—stinging like a million needles as soon as the decision is made. It seems minute by minute, the harder it gets, like he is farther away and my heart is now raw, like an open wound, scraping the cement.
I walk along a beach in New Zealand. I needed the Pacific Ocean as a buffer between us for this kind of pain. The tide is high today, and the waves move powerfully, forcing me to accept this. I trudge through the shells, sandy dirt, and washed up seaweed. Keep going, I tell myself. You’ll reach the pavement soon enough and then it will be easier to walk; thoughts of him will fade, just keep walking.
The waves crash harder on the sand, like they were meant for us. The sorrow washes up to reach my feet but quickly disappears, leaving only a white trail of the first time he held me when I cried—and years later when he stopped. Another set of waves hurl toward me, crashing once again and dissolving into the sand like we had never gotten in that car and talked all night and tried to make a life together.
I keep walking. The sand is dry and wet and none of it makes any difference to how hard this climb is, how I just have to keep watching time pass and wait for it to put me back together. Jealousy creeps up the back of my spine, stinging like a dead jellyfish washed up on my inner thigh. The waves gather in swirls halfway out to sea, collecting thoughts of other women he will lay with and ask out to dinner someday. I watch them crash against the dark cliffs, shattering against the rocks.
It’s calm again, my body relaxes, and I know, deep down, I will wish him love in his life again someday.
I keep walking and watch the water move back and forth, letting all the anger and depression absorb back into the sand. Let him go, I demand, as if I have any control over the sea.
I step over a log that looks like it’s drowning, but it lives here and is rooted in the ocean’s wake. The water washes over its surface and then retreats to let it breathe again. The log hasn’t always lived in the ocean, but it has made a new home for itself and is now more beautiful because it can withstand high tides.
And I realize, it isn’t drowning, but is nourished. It wasn’t like it was before, but is more interesting with the tears and the journey it has traveled. It is warped and shiny now—the ocean has cured it somehow, brought it new life.
I reach the shore with the tide almost at my feet. I keep on walking with the wind in my hair and loose sand kicking up across my sneakers. My legs are strong, carrying me with each step. I will make it to the end this time. The tide has blocked off the path and when I wait for the current to wash back out to sea, I don’t make it. My socks are wet, but I smile and keep going.
My dog throws seaweed in the air and I am grateful for the wind in her coarse white and brown whiskers. You’d think the chaos and the speckles of rain would make us fall back, but we keep going, tossing pine cones into the water, and kicking shells out from under our feet.
We come to another obstacle and again the tide has flooded the crossing; there is no time to wait for the current to let us through, so we head up toward the storm drain and find another way around. Stepping over the cement wall, we find a new path on a neighbor’s lawn.
The waves are soft today and I feel peaceful. The force of them no longer charging at my feet forcing me to accept what’s happened, but instead clear and cold, gently licking the surface and joining the rest of the ocean—like this was how it was always meant to be.
We reach the end again and I put my hand on the cliff, moist and green from the algae draped over the edge. It’s strong, rooted into the ground, not moving no matter how much water crashes and sprays across its surface. I feel how long it’s been here, how many people have passed through and leaned up against it for support.
Nothing will change it—it will be here when the moon rises and the sun comes up tomorrow.
It doesn’t matter that the sand is wet or dry, I keep walking now with the same pace, no longer worrying if I will reach the end. It’s in sight but I could keep going past it today, down the street, into town, and buy myself an almond croissant from the cafe on the corner.
The tide is low and I look up to smile at other people passing by. When I reach the cliffs on the other side, I don’t need to touch their surface to feel strong. My heart is scabbing over and I trust the scars will fade.
I will keep walking the shoreline and trust the ocean to handle the rest.