Jessi kicks off her shoes as she reaches the open sand, and her tears join the salty ocean spray as she launches herself into the icy swells. Her summer uniform clings to her form as she throws her body through the next wave, and she collapses beneath the surface of the swirling surf, only to emerge in a tangle of sodden cloth. She tears bitterly at the fabric and pulls herself free as another wave crashes over her. Shedding these parts of herself, she begins a frantic swim—away from the shore and all she knows.

Voices clamber through her mind, but she cannot hear them over the splashing of her limbs and the raggedness of her breathing. Her heart is a heavy weight in her chest and she almost wishes she could leave it behind. Perhaps it will be the end of her, dragging her down into the depths of the ocean like an anchor of lead. She does not belong in the sea—nor do any of her people. And that is why she flees into its expansive darkness—it is the only place that is not a place at all, it is the only place that is empty of all meaning, it is the only place that offers nothing, demands nothing, and is nothing. And if there is nothing to receive her but Death, then so be it.

The swells soon lift her entire body into the sky with grace unlike anything she has ever experienced. She feels as if she is cupped in the hands of a mighty and loving giant, being tossed up and down like a little child. Her flailing arms have no power over the waves, and there is nothing solid to tell her which direction she is moving. Everything is relative, everything is shifting, everything is fluid. And she—a human being, clinging to a static form, an image, an ego, a context—cannot dissolve into the coursing presence of the One. Not without surrendering her life.

The swells soon suck at her strength, and she feels the cold begin to grip her limbs. All she has to do is give up. Nothing more is asked of her. There is no prize for staying afloat, nowhere to get to, nothing to be—she has no purpose here. And yet, her arms and legs continue to pump, and her head swings back and forth, her eyes darting and hoping to find something solid in this sea of shifting currents. Perhaps if she exhausts all her strength in swimming, she will have nothing left to resist the pull. But straining through water that completely ignores her no matter how hard she forces it aside is aggravating and it only leads her to anger.

And being here in this place that is not a place, there is nothing to restrain her emotions, nothing to lock her heart in a cage, nothing to freeze her face in place. And so she feels for the first time in her life, her heart erupting with nothing to hold it back. A spike of fear rises up to meet the wave of emotion; but it is like a child trying to protect a sand castle on the beach. All her life she has been taught that emotions are wrong, that they cloud her reason, that they make her weak, that they are irrational and narrow, but no matter how much pain and fear has cemented her willpower in place, nothing can stop the turning tides for she has surrendered all control—let it wash away her entire self, let it wipe out the scaffolding of her heart, let it wash away the structures of her mind, let it break through every wall of fear and doubt and pain. And let it burst from her frail body into the emptiness of the sea. And let the sea currents take her where they will.

The End

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