This book is scary even to someone like me. I’m encamped in deep Malibu in an apartment extended over the beach with a 15-foot-window of pure ocean. I thought it would be restful but I forgot the ocean is terrifying. Or maybe agitating is the better word. It's like I think nature will cleanse me--and maybe it is--but I’ve got a time limit. When I climbed through underwater caves in Belize, after about two hours my legs gave way underneath me. I kept falling in four inches of water. I had zero strength left. It was dark, I was panicking. It was going to take the same amount of time to get out as it had going in. I thought it was a deficit in my athleticism but there were also dead bodies down there; skeletons of children sacrificed by Mayan Shamans, now tourist attractions outlined with glow-in-the-dark tape.
So, maybe it was something else, too.
I was scared of the water growing up. Even in the tub. I kept imagining a shark or hurricane circling the drain. I wouldn’t put my head under until the third grade. Once when my mother was out of town, my dad gave me a bath and dumped a bucket of water over my head and you would’ve thought by my reaction that he burned me with hot coals. When I was 16, I became a lifeguard. Typical me. Oh, you’re afraid of the water? Go get certified to drag a drowning body from the bottom of a 25-foot-pool. I was really good at treading water. I could last forever, even holding a brick over my head (as was required for the test). I could’ve worked at the beach (the far more glamorous position) but I never wanted to have to save anyone from the lake. I didn’t think I could.
There’s a swell now, or so I’m told. The waves are huge and the sound is so fucking loud. I feel like Joe Pesci in MY COUSIN VINNY. Someone take me to jail so I can sleep through the night. In West Hollywood, I walk for two-hours at midnight and feel completely calm. Here: I sit on the sand facing the ocean in broad daylight, the waves cresting far above my head and think—that’s me. I’m 70% water and that ocean is inside of me with all its undertows and riptides; violently kicking up sand, kelp, rock; foaming at the mouth on its way to shore. No matter how far back I sit, it always gets me.
Sometimes I miss Lake Michigan.