I remember swimming off the coast near Newport, at Beverly Beach or South Beach maybe. I was 14, maybe 15 -- one of those moments where I can't quite place the actual year. We were camping nearby with family from Washington. My cousins, both scuba divers and strong swimmers, and I were out past the first line of swells so we could catch waves forming to body surf in. The surf was huge and pounding that summer's day.
I had turned to look back at shore for a moment when a wave caught me in the back of my neck and shoulders. The force of it pushed me into the sand and rocks a few feet below the surface. I could feel the riptide grab on to me and I tumbled backwards across the ocean floor.
Salt water burns the eyes and I didn't have goggles on that day. We were just body surfing and goofing off. I kept my eyes pressed tightly closed as I staggered and fell, tumbled and was pulled along. It was impossible to get my bearings, to actually know which way was really up.
So I opened my eyes and looked for bubbles, where the sand was, turned my body around until my feet were below me, and pushed up off of the sand. Breaking the surface I could see how far I'd been pulled out. My eyes ached and burned, I was crying as I breathed in huge gulps of air.
After a few minutes of treading water I swam back to shore. As I stood to walk to my stuff I felt heavy and flopped down onto my towel exhausted. I lay on my belly breathing hard, feeling my heard pounding against my ribs, listening to the roar of the ocean.
I never told any of them, especially my Mother. I feared that, having confirmed my swimming out so far was dangerous, I'd have that pleasure forbidden me.
Since Sunday I've had some memory of that, being pulled along, buffeted by the tide, and at a loss to where my balance is. I am trying to keep my eyes open for the truth.