In the Surf

I know there’s probably something wrong about ordering an espresso drink called an “affogato” – Italian for “drowned” – before a surfing session. The Workshop in Wrightsville Beach does it so well, I cannot resist. It’s my favorite.

This summer, I have rediscovered my first love here: Wrightsville Beach. I’d been so caught up in the free parking at Kure Beach (that no longer exists), I forgot WB has the best breaks with gentle, perfect Simonne-sized waves at low tide. I even found a honey hole – a secret spot where there are waves even at high tide.

You could find me there most weekend mornings. Paid parking doesn’t begin until 9 – usually I’m gone by 10. It gets too busy and I spend far too much time in the sun for my skin as it is. Yes, I keep skipping church to be there.

It took me forever to learn: it was years before I could stand up. I still can’t drop into a wave and I know its a confidence thing: I’m out there to have fun and unwind, not land a sponsor.

Surfing has tested my mettle.

Balancing on the board is second nature now. Each board is slightly different, I learned where my body fit best; not too far forward (otherwise I’d summersault over it) and not too far back.

Proximity of my body to the board is also quite important: one time I fell off in a big wave and when I surfaced, I didn’t see my board. It wasn’t tugging on my leash strap attached to my ankle. As I was treading water, looking around for it, I turned and WHAM! a wave pushed the board into my face. My incisors went through my lip – a complete tear – and I found myself in urgent care for 20+ stitches – both inside and outside my lip. It’s no matter, it comes with the territory.

I know I’ll have goose-egg sized bruises on the front of my hips after a long session because fat likes to stick around the tops of my hips instead – so its bone-on-board, as I lie prone to catch a wave. It hurts after awhile, but I’ve learned to push through the pain – especially if a good set is rolling in.

Board rash – where the delicate skin on one’s belly gets rubbed off from the surf wax and sand – is another issue that I could easily solve with a rash guard, but it would ruin my tan lines.

I’ve mastered the pop up, going from prone to standing in one motion. It’s like a burpee, but it causes an afterglow. The instant I’ve caught the wave – it’s nothing short of exhilarating – like that moment right before a first kiss, as I move into position, hoping the wave has enough umph to keep me on a long ride.

And yet, at the end of it all, I feel the most beautiful 100 yards from land where the waves are breaking. No jewelry, no make up, and messy hair (the Atlantic is a terrible stylist) with a bikini corseted to my body. My skin is pink from the sun and my muscles are screaming from paddling and popping up to standing.

There’s nothing quite like Wrightsville Beach, the atmosphere here calms my soul like nothing else.

I love it and can’t wait for the next low tide when I’m not at work.

Ghosts, Just Passing Through

My phone dinged. I glance to see the message on social media and stopped.

It was an old flame from the past, estranged at best. There was a link. I rolled my eyes, thinking he’s probably been hacked, we hadn’t spoke in two lifetimes. What could possibly be said now?

I clicked on the message, expecting it to be trash.

And it wasn’t. It was directed to me, a news article about an event where I used to live. Without preamble, the words flew out of my thumbs: “Is that [redacted]?” He said it was. I also added, “Hello! It has been ages!”

This was disregarded as the ellipsis disappeared. He replied with more perfunctory verbiage captured in this article. It read like a radio report from the ambulances I used to overhear in the Emergency Room. Just the facts, please, and quickly.

And that was it. The line went dead. It was like I saw an apparition that held my gaze for a moment, turned, and disappeared into wall. I sat back, wondering. It felt so weird.

A part of me wanted to reach out with 1,000 questions. How are you? What are you doing now? Are you in the same town? What is your job? Where do you live? Are you with the same girl? What are your hobbies? Do you ever get back to [place we had in common] or see [person we used to know]? Do you have a church home? What are you successes? How are you struggling? How’s your family? Do you get back home often? Where have you traveled? Tell me a story. Tell me everything.

In short, who are you now?

As the list of questions spun in my head, I realized the same of myself.

He didn’t know me anymore either.

Despite my cries of I haven’t really changed at all in the past two decades or so, the truth is I have. I’m quite a good cook now; I make most of my meals from scratch and my breakfasts are vegan. I’m a huge coffee snob. My understanding of God has changed; I’m a contemplative who doesn’t prescribe to SBC regulations. I love aunting. I can crochet. I have a healthier lifestyle. I did Bikram yoga in the pre-pandemic days. I’m gardening and learning so much, like two languages. I write. I still get myself caught up in crazy adventures. I still run like I used to. My depression morphed into anxiety and it’s been a struggle. My spiritual gift is hospitality and I’m sorry it wasn’t refined in days when I knew him.

But I asked none of them. And neither did he.

One of the last times we spoke, I poured my heart out about work – our professions are related – and he said nothing. When I asked about him, he replied, “Fine.” And then he had to go.

It is all like a poltergeist, just making noise to be heard as it’s passing through. Trouble is, I’m sensitive to these things.