Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
It’s the only sound I can hear. It’s the only sound I want to hear. Air moving through a tube. I’m floating. Breathing. Snorkeling. The water is in my ears. It’s blocking the noise of life happening all around me. I just want to be. I let the current take me where it will. I don’t have the desire to pull against it anymore. It carries me farther and farther away from where I started, waves gently rocking me as I go.
When I came here, I was excited. I wanted to explore the reef. I had been craving this moment for quite some time now. There would be excitement as I experienced life forms alien to my terrestrial existence. I would marvel at the creatures in these waters, and develop a greater appreciation for what lurks in the deep. At least, this was my expectation.
Reality grips me instead. It wraps its icy fingers around me until I become numb. And so I float. The sound of my breath is the only thing here to remind me that I’m alive. Even the ocean floor, stretched out beneath me is not enough to wake me from this haze of indifference that has descended upon me. It’s like the mists that fall over the tops of the mountains, ominous and dark, bringing cold air into the sun drenched landscape. For every beautiful sight that passes before my eyes, there is a fresh realization that beauty itself is only a perception. If I’m the only one who sees it, does it really even matter? I know now that paradise is useless to me in the absence of one to share it with. Instead, it mocks me at every glance.
I am alone, and it is not good.
Not good. Not good. Not good. The mantra is playing over and over in my head, tandem with the rhythm of my pulse. I’m nauseated by this profoundly simple understanding. I need to leave this place. I exit the water and trudge through the sand to collect my things on the beach. Now making my way to the showers, I take another look around me. This place is aching with natural wonder, it looks as though it belongs to a fantasy world. I feel I have no place here, it is too perfect.
Standing under the running water, I gaze up at the sun, filtered through clouds and palm fronds as I rinse the salt and the sand from my body. I don’t want to be here anymore, this place is not my home. I would gladly trade this tropical destination for open pastures lined with barbed wire fences. I long to see fields dotted with live oaks and pecan trees again. How my soul used to come alive sitting beneath their branches! When I run my fingers across tree bark here, I feel nothing at all. Not good. Not good. Not good. Tears sting my eyes. It’s time to get out of here.
He sent me a message. He’s on his way home now. I’m going to meet him there. It’s what we had planned on the day before. I would be in town all day, so I would come by to see him and maybe steal a nap on his couch before going to work. That was my first mistake. I cornered myself, and I should have been wiser. Instead, I’m being reckless. I’m not really sure if I even care at this point.
The numbness persists. I turn again to the ONE that promised to always be with me. I pray. I thank God for the beauty HE has surrounded me with this morning. Still numb. I sing a song of praise and ask HIM to guide me through the day. Still numb. I strain my ears to hear HIM speak to me. Silence. Always silence these days. HE seems to have vanished from my awareness. Where did HE go? I miss HIM.
Now I’m in his apartment. I feel gross from the beach, so I take a shower there before sitting down to eat breakfast. We enjoy some light conversation over our food, and then settle onto the couch to watch a movie. He grabs my legs and places them in his lap, now he’s rubbing my feet. I won’t say no to that. I find myself slipping away into a dreamless sleep. Exhaustion can’t even begin to describe how I feel. The nap is blissful. Finally, an escape from my own mind. I need this.
I’m slowly coming back to consciousness. He hasn’t moved an inch since I feel asleep. He’s still sitting there, at the other end of the couch holding my feet. I want to drift back into sleep, but I’m wide awake now. I stir a little and now he’s smiling at me, asking me if I feel better. I’m impressed by how kind he is. It’s nice to be in the company of another human. I’m overwhelmed by the simplicity of it all.
He’s leaning in for a kiss. I won’t say no to that either. Our lips meet, and I’m breathing him in so deeply. My mind empties of all that has troubled me this morning and I fall into a haze of wanting. Desire comes like a flood, and I let it sweep over me.
His hands are soft, his kisses so gentle. This feels like everything I want right now. It is comfortable. I rack my memory, searching for the last time I experienced comfort. I draw a blank. For a moment, the numbness wanes. I feel warm, and relaxed. This is a far cry from the cold waters and the steely indifference I lived just hours before. It seems I can’t get my body close enough to his, I want to absorb all that he is. I’m clinging to him, aching to feel…something, but what?
What do I even want? What am I doing here? Why am I now sitting on his lap, running my fingers through his hair? This is moving quickly. I should stop. I don’t want to stop. I won’t stop.
All I hear is stop. It’s not him speaking, but HIM. The voice I longed to hear all morning is now calling to me. Why did HE wait so long to make an appearance today? Why is HE here now? Why is HE standing between the only thing that has made me feel alive? Stop. Stop. Stop. It’s the only thing HE says.
I should listen to HIM. I’m not listening. I won’t listen. Not now. Not in this moment where I need so much and there is nothing else to fill this longing. Don’t look at me God. Don’t be here now. I begged for YOU before and I couldn’t find YOU. Why should YOU be here now? Don’t look. Go away. I need this too much.
Clothes are on the floor. Pulses are racing, breath is becoming shallow. Everything feels so good, and then the numbness comes again. My body is alive, but my soul feels dead. What is happening? Why is everything so damn complicated? I want this. I will have this moment. What else is there? The alternative feels too painful to even consider.
We had our moment. I feel numb. Again. Why is everything cold again? His arms around me don’t feel like comfort anymore. They feel like weights. What have I done?
HE went away. Just like I asked. Days have passed, and I don’t know when HE will come back for me. Alone. Again. I need HIM. HE is gone.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The only sound that matters anymore. The only sound to remind me I’m alive.