I’ve been in this ocean since the beginning of my beginning. Soon as I was birthed, I clung to my mother as she tread. And although I know it is very unlikely, I can’t help but feel like she was still treading for herself than for the both of us. I would cling, and she would tread, but she never held onto me like I would see other mothers do.
It wasn’t long till I pushed off—tired of being a burden—to tread on my own. Well, it was more of a detachment, but either way, my mother didn’t realize it until much later. I was young when I weaned myself, and it hurt to think that not once did she notice my cold absence. Well, she did eventually, and I suppose it became somehow clear to her that she give some sort of instruction; lessons that I knew others had already been given at younger ages. I was old enough to know they were important, but young enough to spite them.
As she treads, I do as well. But at a distance. I never get too close, and make sure that she believes that I am a strong treader. Because once you duck your head, once you go under, it gets harder to resist sinking.
In front of everyone, even my brothers, I at least tread, if not, tread weakly. But when I wonder, when I don’t fear death, when I don’t desire redemption, I sink. I sink below the waves and I look up at the jeweled surface. The reflected light jolts the water above to form a clear, wavered crystal. And it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful, and I can’t see why sinking seems so bad. The water—the deep, dark depth—feels cold, numbly cold, and I know it could kill me. Just about anything in this water could kill me, but…how can I not love it? I’ve come so adept at treading, at wondering about water; why should I hate it? Why should I learn to hate this? It’s bright, it’s lovely, and it’s everywhere.
Well, I knew why. I knew very well why. It could kill me.
I was almost there at one point. I almost died. I almost sunk completely. But the pain of it—the guilt, the choking guilt and the horrid frost that started within—grew too much for me to handle. There was still a part of me that was a treader. So I went to the surface again, quickly, and took a gust of air in. And when I looked around in panic at being found out, everyone was still far off, treading. No one really noticed. When I came back, no one commented at my suspiciously long absence. They just asked if the water was warmer on my side, to which I lied. The ocean is always cold.
But there are other times when I feel strangely optimistic. When I tread with everyone, when we feed off each other's current, I feel like we might make it to land, like if we all just keep treading and treading and treading and gasping and floating, even if some of us do die and even if we're tired or malnourished, we just might get to rest easy when it's all said and done. Though, there have been generations abound who have been treading. The First of Us lived on land, which is obvious. If we lived in water, we wouldn’t have to tread. But it's been said that the First were a rebellious group, something about an insatiability for the power of the tides. They jumped in and were swept away. No one has seen land since.
Which is why I wonder about the water. If we are to tread for the rest of our lives in uncertainty, why not sink? Why not behold one last thing of beauty before casting away your current to the real power? Why do we keep fighting that which we cannot win?
And the answer struck me quite miraculously. Because we hope.