Black skies, night breeze, liquid moon. Darkness under, over, around you.
A fear re-experienced on a ferry, a cruise, a trip to the beach. No matter how harmless the location, it finds its way back. When your feet disappear in the murky sea, when the waves open up and swallow you under, when the motions beneath you grow louder, when your arms flail, helpless to keep oxygen in your lungs.
I am afraid of the ocean, I think because I have recognized how helpless I am while floating on the water. While I haven’t swam in a year or more, there’s a certain dread that falls over me when in the ocean. I remember going to Lighthouse Park and looking out to the water, but feeling disappointed in how inscrutable the world beneath the waves looked. Imagine childhood wonder and optimism, but twisted and made negative by the feeling of seaweed on your feet during your first trip to the beach. And then picture a cruise ship, sailing off with family and friends, where a majority of the time is spent in the cabin puking your sickness away. They say many of our more instinctual feelings and tendencies can be traced back to our childhood; for example, when I was young, one of my aunt’s meatballs got stuck in my throat, and I still to this day dislike meatballs because of it. I would bet that my aversion to the sea is also due to some childhood experience like the ones I mentioned.
Recently, I helped my sister by proofreading and offering suggestions on her high school English paper on Wide Sargasso Sea, a novel by Jean Rhys. The story’s setting, in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, places the plot in a stasis where it cannot move without feeling related to its setting. The setting thus dominates the conversation of the story, its themes and characters, their motivations and inspirations. I feel, in a way, that certain settings can dominate our lives; just as much as they dominate stories, they may also control storytellers.