I felt it like a wave of salt water. Relief washed over me. I could taste the brine, the dirt, the sand. I dipped my face beneath the surface. I let it fill me up. I stood as it pooled around me, dripped from the tip of my nose, left tiny crystals on my eyelashes. I could see her, the quiet one, the one who had followed me around for so many years. She stopped and looked back at me as she walked out to sea, as I stood still in the shallows. I held her stare; neither of us flinched. I didn’t know if the salt on her face had come from the surf or from her eyes, though later I came to realize that they were one and the same, she and the ocean. She didn’t smile. Her stare was blank, quiet, reflective. I raised my hand to shield the bright sun from my eyes, breaking concentration for only a moment, and when I looked back, she had turned to face the sea. Her back was pale, slender, fragile. I could see the blue-grey of veins, close to the surface. She walked slowly, pointedly into the waves, untouched by the turbulence. She didn’t look back. I knew I would see her again. She knew the same. I turned and blinked, wiping the salt from my eyes, and I stepped onto dry earth…for the first time in decades.

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