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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saudades: Outer Banks

           The family was packing the car.  I couldn't bring myself to help.  Instead, I wandered through the little cottage inhaling deeply the smell of cedar and sand and saltwater.  Everything from the tan, tight-weave carpet to the tiny hall closet had become dear to me, though I couldn’t figure out exactly when this had happened.  All the other years that my family had rented this beach house from our friends I had come, played, beached, and left with the knowledge that we’d be back.  This year was different.  Why did I feel like a shipwreck?  In my short and last trip through the little house I reached the master bedroom.  The water mattress had been replaced with a real mattress just last year.  I used to lie on it and imagine that fish swum and mermaids played in reefs inside it as I slept.  I missed that eerie feeling of swaying back and forth, like falling asleep on a sailboat.  I missed sitting on the edge of its instability playing pirates with my brothers, our intermittent yelps occasionally forcing mom to peek in.  “If you jump on that waterbed it will burst!”  After which announcement we would settle down…until we forgot. Thankfully (perhaps miraculously) that bed never broke.  The master bedroom had a little bathroom in the far corner.  It smelled like coconut shampoo and wet sand crunched under your feet no matter how many times the floor was wiped down.  I’d hung my wet swimsuit on the towel rack in that room after long, sunny days at the beach.  It never dried fully before I used it again…plunging into the waves…again and again throwing myself into the mystery of the ocean letting salt and sand rush through my hair and only coming up to breathe when I couldn’t take it anymore...  Across the hall from the master was “my” room.  It wasn’t really mine of course, but it was the room I’d used on our vacations since I was born.  The furniture was white wicker and the walls were adorned with paintings in pastel colors.  Jars of seashells and sand were scattered around on shelves and in the closet.  My room was a different universe from the one my brothers shared. Brightly colored fish hung on their wall and the red bunk beds, so similar to the structure of a ship, often served as another playground for us on the rare rainy days in the Outer Banks.  I breathed a long heavy sigh.  The chaos of packing to go home was winding down.  The rest of the family was already on the porch and carrying final suitcases and baskets down the stairs.  Mom called for me.  I blinked tears away as I passed through the living room and kitchen before pressing my arm to open the screen door.  In the process, the door latch caught on my arm and tore away a patch of skin from my elbow.  I let quiet tears fall for a moment before I grabbed a napkin to stay the bleeding.  The gash was deep and the scar serves as a souvenir.  Saudades.

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