Golden links of wheat grass swayed serenely, a pleasant distance from the untamable commotion of people at the base of the pale beach, bleached white by sunlight and the peeling skin of toddlers. The ocean had seeped its way into the coast ungraciously, creating a harsh divergence between people and water levels eight feet high, colored blue by the by the cloudless sky and green by what I could only guess as a three-year-old were the beasts below.
Sunshine flicked unaccounted reflections of water across my blazing pink one piece. Within the hour, I'd managed to settle onto our rental pool float, more a pink translucent mattress, and set off the coast of Florida into the North Atlantic Ocean. Admittedly, this was a moment of toddler blindness (an unfortunate surprise that my vision was ruined by the time I'd learned common sense) as I drifted leisurely.
Blissfully, I allowed a distance to settle between myself and the desiccant sand, too young to swim or paddle my vessel, but I soon discovered myself with a frightened wail to be a thousand miles from shore. I had encapsulated myself in an airless bubble in the sweltering sun, not a cloud of assurance that’d I’d return safely in sight, distant as the shoreline, nor a magical singing dolphin. No, none of that, only myself and endless stretches of ocean.
This is also a notable example of selective blindness in my adolescence, as I have no idea how I made it back to shore, neither my parents. Reasonably, it may have never happened, and I'd only dreamt of the sea salt scratching at my skin before bathing in its dwellings. Regardless, I suppose I was too caught up in the "adventure" to have recalled where I landed myself afterward. I propose that the barking gulls attacking my lunch sandwiches had erased my memories.
This hole in my memory leads me to the nights of four day vacationing in Miami, on a father’s business trip, where I had a full living room to myself in a family friend's beach house and a pullout bed. It seemed I was living the high life on the couch cot had it not been for an acute fear of the dark, and, with the nocturnal vision of a Russian wolf, I'd stay up late into the oozing night watching, waiting with hazel eyes marked white.
The balcony was a particular item of interest. Potentially, I’d considered, for a monstrous crab to clamber to the second floor, smash open its glass sliding doors, and with a saturated claw drag me away as I voicelessly screamed into the night. It was no wonder crabs were red! I was a vivid dreamer, certainly, but everything was black and white at night, like the stripes of a prison inmate’s uniform, and christened unpredictably by bluish moonlight. My nights, regardless of my traumatic fears, went smoothly otherwise as the sound of waves lulled me begrudgingly into its clutches of rest, where, in fact, singing dolphins had come to my aid in the time of need. They weren’t magical, though, as my mind was a precocious realist even when I was little.
The pattern of midnight nightmares followed suite the rest of the vacation. I had found it immensely difficult to reside in the large space of the beach house living room, which had combined all too seamlessly with the black countertop kitchen set. When day dawned, however, it was another story entirely: the returned jubilance of a child taking on exotic exploits to the beach, building haphazard sand castles to be swallowed by high tide and tyrannizing the little crabs at the continental shelf by skylight.
In the end, I’d little to whine about on the extensive car ride home (aside from, of course, the car ride itself, but we’d DVDs to keep me occupied). My fear of the dark did not carry on into the day, to my blind glee, and, one way or another, I found my way home to a familiar and comfortable bed in a sizable bedroom with my protectors, my parents and hundreds of colorful stuffed animals. What I had been missing, which had lead to my dysphoria, I’ve come to realize, were two things: family and home. And no giant red crab nor pink pool mattress could take that from me.