wave crashes to the rocks just outside the small circle of light in front of me sending a ripple across the cave where it hits my socks, contributing its small part to the salt already collecting on my soaking stockings. The process repeats endlessly- concentric circles grow one after the other for hours, even days or eons at a time, if you watch long enough. I pull out my sack of tobacco and my book of papers, grab a small pinch from the sack, run my palms back and forth around it several times before placing it in the folded leaf, rolling once or twice more, wetting, sticking, smoothing, lighting. The cloud almost fills the room, if you could call it a room. Even without the smoke, I wouldn't be able to make out the roof above me, as dark as it is tonight. The moon just passed the circular opening, and now the only light is the parabola cast on the rippling floor. I grind my cigarette against the stone wall, twisting and pushing.
I pull my feet towards me, lean forward and rise then slowly move towards the circle of light. Without even thinking about it, I duck down for the last few steps, and when I rise I'm outside. It's automatic - it should be by now, I repeat this ritual almost every night. Carefully but confidently, I step on the rocks that still emerge from the surf, and climb back to the sandy beach. The last lights on the pier have shut off, and the only light is the moon, cutting a perfect circle through the clear January sky, and its reflection, shimmering up to me from unknown depths.
As I contemplate this, a wooden board washes ashore about ten feet from me. I walk over and pick it up. It's a pretty good size, about a foot by two feet, and it has half or a third of a word written in white pain on ancient red: "ysyte." Wondering what this means, and where it could have came from I hear a sound, far off in the distance. It sounds like a saxophone, or maybe a harmonica, or even bagpipes. I can't tell, I can never tell anymore. It seems to be coming from far out at sea...
I sit down in the cold sand and roll another cigarette. The strange music still wafts in from the west. I wonder how much of it I'd hear from my house. I wonder how loud it is at the end of the pier. I push my cigarette into the sand at my feet, arise and start walking. It's near freezing now, and the wind is picking up. I lose track of the mysterious song, the wind whistles its own music in my ears. I walk against this salty sea breeze all the way to the end of the pier, where it stops suddenly, as if signaling me. I hear the faint music again. It's definitely coming from the ocean, or the moon, or from somewhere. Somewhere out *there*.
I have never been spontaneous, but people change. I grab the board that I carried here from the beach. I clutch it to my chest, and put my right leg over the barrier at the end of the pier. I pull my left over, and lean back against the fence, my toes above the ocean, but my heels firmly on the wooden planks. I hold tight to the board, lean forward, and throw myself into the deep salty mass. Plunging into the January sea is, at once, sobering and terrifying. I feel a sense of exhilaration like none I've felt before, and as this reaches its apex, I start kicking. Left, right, left, right, I pump my legs in rhythm to the music, louder now, as I leave the pier behind. I swim and kick for what seems like hours. The moon is a little higher in the sky now. Has it moved, or have I? The music still gets louder with every kick, it seems, and now I can make out guitars. Drums, strange sounds and tones, in addition to the saxes or organs. I can even hear voices now. My right ear is waterlogged, but still I kick. The words are almost intelligible, so I must keep swimming...I must keep swimming.
Reviewed by: Evan Chakroff
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01