Changing Tides

By Lylia Saurel

Steam began to fill the room and make the air damp. It must have been a mix of my difficulty breathing and scalded skin that woke me up rushing to turn off the tap and prevent the bath from overflowing. 

Having regained consciousness, I get out of the tub and wipe down the fogged up mirror. As I open the bathroom door a stream of fresh air slams my bare skin. 

It’s 11am. I soullessly walk back to bed. 

The midday April light tries to pierce through the black heavy curtains that have remained closed for the past days. Life tries to invite itself in, and I’m not in the mood to welcome it. I feel empty, so does my stomach. The gurgles and cramps remind me that I haven’t eaten for two days. I lost my appetite. The sheets, wet with my tears from the last three nights, remind me that I lost sleep too.

I gaze at the ceiling and think about the third bath I’ll take later on. 

Being underwater is the only way to displace the emotional turbulence of my grief, and I feel serene there. My head submerged, I hear the beating of my heart. It quiets my thoughts and allows me to exist, even if for a brief moment until my lungs tighten and beg for air.

The dryness of my cheeks and pounding headache ultimately force me to sit up. My body struggles to stay upright, to support me. I now understand why it’s called a heartbreak, my chest physically hurts. 

The same memories play on repeat in my mind. I fell in love like they do in the movies and I hadn’t touched the ground for a whole two years. Until I hit it face first and absolutely crumbled. 

“Turns out you loved me more than I did, I’m sorry.” Two years, gone in seconds.

It’s not losing him that made me the saddest, but the loss of all that didn’t get to exist. The loss of the moments that were just awaiting to be lived, of the trips we talked about, of the stories we should have told. I didn’t lose the person with whom I shared two years of my life, I lost the one with whom I planned to build my future. I lost the love of my life, at least that’s what I thought. 

Then somehow the pain started to fade away, bit by bit at first and then all at once. The first weeks consisted of learning to live with myself again; to occupy the queen size bed and happily sleep like a starfish, rather than be saddened by the cold and deserted space to my right. 

Slowly the heaviness of the morning, which at first recalled the day that remained to be faced, started to evaporate and brought along joggings in the park before the city even began to rumble. 

At times, without warning, tears welled up in my eyes but once the storm was over I’d become a bit freer, a bit more peaceful. And when peace fully returned, so did the nights out filled with laughter, dancing and a bit too much liquor. 

One September evening, the kind that marks the approach of summer’s end when the air is no longer oppressive but refreshing, I found myself dancing the night away in a seaside town on the New Jersey coast, accompanied by friends who were still strangers weeks earlier. 

As we left the bar and headed to the waterfront, the echo of swift yet genuine companionships that only seem to exist on summer nights abruptly stopped as we stepped onto the cold sand. For miles, the beach was empty and silent, as if resting from the passengers who had occupied it a few hours earlier and who would return when the sun rose. 

The moonlight caressed the foamy surge of the waves melting gently over the already wet sand as it reached the shore. The darkness of the sky made the ocean feel less vast. 

The slivering water on my naked body caused me to shiver at first, and eventually its embrace invited me to float several feet away from the shore. This time I no longer needed it as an escape from the pain. I didn’t need it to feel light and whole, I just was. 

I thought I had lost the love of my life, but lying there facing the sky and abandoning myself to the quiet back and forth of the ripples of the ocean, I realized that it had been with me all along. 

In the water that night I understood that I had to lose him, to find me.