The sea is a place where in our current year young bodies in their early twenties lie in the sand, half-naked, attempting to tan their pale backs. They have returned to tell stories of what they have seen, having moved across the sea to make a home elsewhere, to study on other shores, before they return, if they return, to their native one to ensure that it blooms. It is a place where young expatriates bury their siblings’ light-coloured legs in the sand when playing. They must use more sand now than a few months before. The kids have grown. Sand falls onto disposable plates with half-eaten cherries, leftover kernels, blueberries as they try to recall which berries were their siblings’ favourites, uncertain if the preference has changed whilst they were away, elsewhere by the sea. The sea is a place where they build a tent from a shipwreck leftover washed up on the shore, eaten by salt and rust. Combined with mother’s blankets, towels, swimsuit tops, planks found nearby, the wreck makes a shelter from the summer wind, battering through layers of thin jackets lent by the one friend who smartly recognized that warm weather prognoses are a deception. They decorate the self-made structure with branches, green and young as their minds before they’ll be solidified by midlife crisis. It is a place where Soviet soldiers tilled the sand on the Baltic shore every day to ensure that no spies were arriving from the sea, and that these youths’ parents were not trying to escape over the sea, overseas, to the lands of Free Speech and Western sneakers. I look at the sea now struck by the strangeness of knowledge that it is the same shore, the subject of daring sarcastic jokes, Why are they tilling that sand if nothing will ever grow here, in this land? The same sea across which my father tried to row away from Communism to a free Sweden in a found fishing boat and, aiming for the far invisible shore, made it only to a fishing village near at hand, Red, as everywhere once on this coast. His arms were so tired that even the Western allure could not persuade them to raise the oars once more. The sea is a place where in our current year youths in their early twenties meet for a 1980s-themed event, clad in denim and leather, their energy equating ten power plants never to be locked down, not due to security or environmental concerns. Bare feet on cold ground in pale sunset light, a month after Midsummer, when the nights are still bright and the magic hour lasts for two. A passer-by fixes the youths’ picture in analogue form, before they dash into the water with 80s denim on, socks off, if only for a night, before they leave for overseas. Young emigrants most, a few who stayed, they walk unworried to lose the footpath home over the dunes as they locate elbows to cling to in the dark, led by touch not sight in determined ruling that, If we trip and fall, we trip and fall together, wincing as pinecones threaten to split open their feet. They reach the shore, four run into the cold summer waters naked to meet salt and stone, while two choose to stay behind let breakers cool only their feet, as they walk and speak of subjects to their natural affection parents, siblings, teachers, mentors, friends, those to whom they return for Christmas, to whom they write from overseas. Safe and strong is the night’s navy blue under which, elbow to elbow, they amble and wonder what determines which relationships swim and which must drown for youths who move from shore to shore, uncertain to which one will they return. We decide to head back, me and him, this friend not seen for long, to meet the swimmers left behind on the shore, the silent water moving us in its capacity to reflect the truth, its clear-cut resistance to falseness, same as how we are talking now, at home, happy, sincere, safe at last, submerging dishonesty as a sin to be drowned. I look at the sea now and pray, in quiet, to have the same unbounded strength to move people as waves do, yet without drowning them in violence of unbridled feeling, a flaw I admit sometimes being guilty of. Now, prayers are a private matter, not to be disclosed or voiced, and yet, breaking this principle, I can tell you, friend, blatantly, that I pray to be a wave still. A wave not hell-bent on destruction but on lifting those who dare to touch it. I pray to never drown sincerity in foreign waters telling otherwise; to not fear expressing natural affection, even when it puts me at risk or is tarnished by suspicious interpreters; to be less dreadful and cold in the rare moments when I give into astonishing anger; to never forget from what waters I hail, while letting them be joined by other streams as I move and learn; to never allow deceptive currents sway mine from their natural direction and to have such clarity of mind and heart that, even if they do, I may swiftly find a path back; to understand what currents make me act in certain ways, to not be led by them indiscriminately but with ability to navigate which flows I follow, even if they are turbulent ones; to not burn out for a third time desperate to justify mine being away, as I pull out a map and explain to a seven-year-old by which shore his sister will be, away from home for 9 months, why it is her want, need and choice for good, rather than an attempt to hurt him; to not burn out to the point where speech gives way to water, there is no air, one cannot move, swim, think, nothing, just paddle somewhere on the brink of consciousness, that I could never quite rationally grasp only know that it makes eyes grow dark and turn downward in shame that your own self is failing to function as it normally has and ought to; to have the greatest degree of calmness and affection with respect to the most violent waves, to the people who lack it and have had their lives stirred up all too violently to know any better; lastly, to never lose the sense of awe in which I look at these waters now as we walk, though they have been seen a hundred times before. May those who choose to cross seas eventually find their shore and may those who try to swim succeed, not drown.
By Adele Bea Cipste