ISSUE 7: SEPTEMBER 2015
The Sea in Her Ear
By Opal Palmer Adisa
She was drowning, and doing everything she knew she shouldn’t.
She opened her mouth and tried to swallow the sea.
Its ceaseless motion rocked her body; its voice whistled and echoed all around her. Splashing and crashing, its wetness clung to her like weighted cement that attempted to pull her down. The sea had gotten hold of her and was not ready to let her loose.
She opened her mouth to shout for help and gulped more water, then thrashed about frantically, her hands flailing like slender branches forced to dance under heavy winds. She was drowning and knew her survival depended on her relaxing and allowing the buoyance and heavy saltiness of the sea to keep her afloat.
Something about the neediness of the ocean scared her, the possessive way the water draped her legs, the intimate fishy smell that engulfed her nostrils, the roar of the waves locked in the chamber of her ears, the vast emptiness of the sea, slick like oil yet colorless, invisible. God’s Child knew only a fool would try to save someone bent on drowning herself, and she was both fool and self. She knew she needed to conserve her energy, but her heart was another current in the ocean gravitating towards other channels of currents so Yemaja, the great goddess of the ocean, dragged her down and rolled her like a barrel plummeting down a steep hill.
With arms raised above her head and body stiff and straight as an arrow, she flicked her feet and ejected from the water like a cannon. Mouth wide open she gulped for air as her ears thundered. Immediately, she sprang up in bed, spat out seawater and shook her head furiously to dislodge the water somersaulting in her ear. When that didn’t work she opened her mouth wide and yawned repeatedly. She heard Yemaja’s spluttering laughter and her dismissive remark, “Not ready for you yet, but don’t tarry too long.” Then Yemaja dove into the water like lightning, descending to the deep sandy bottom, lost among the seaweed and corals.
The bed was dry. Her skin was gritty as if she’d spent the entire day at the beach, dipping and then drying off under the sun. She was in her room at her house, not pulled under by a current. No prevailing black ocean awaited her. Shaking her head, fully awake, she scanned the room, then cursed. Rass! What the hell you want with me? She could hear the cawing of the sea, six blocks away; and without seeing the ocean, she could tell that it was flat and shimmering as wet glass. One could be fooled into believing it was harmless, but she, God’s Child, knew better.
She knew she had to go. Was it still night? Rolling out of bed, she crawled on her knees to the window, through which she peered, searching the star-filled sky. It was early morning, probably between one and two o’clock. She kept kneeling, even though the tiled floor sent shooting pains through her left knee where she had fallen when the man cursed her. He had set his dog on her as she ran, tripping over a naseberry tree stump, and then the dog had licked her face, and her knee was covered with blood which the dog licked instead of biting, while the man, the owner, stood there watching them before turning away with a contemptuous wave of his hand, saying, “You both deserve each other, but leave me naseberry alone.”
Now she picked up the naseberry from the windowsill, the last that she had taken, and bit into it as she used her right hand to steady herself, turning from the window, dismissing the lazy moon at her back.
The smooth sweetness of the gummy fruit watered her mouth. She chewed slowly, prolonging the pleasure of the fruit and delaying going where she knew she had to go. Hearing the urgent call from Yemaja, she shouted a response, A coming. Water and fish not going nowhere. The puppy that she has stolen, and who now slept by her door, raised its head, its ears immediately alert. Bending down, she picked up the puppy that she named Dream Undone. Hush, she said, caressing his back, is not you a shouting at, is that damn woman in the ocean who drown me awake. Come we go see what she want. Naked as at birth, she pulled her door shut, and with Dream Undone’s front legs over her right shoulder, she ambled down the road, a liquid sound guiding her steps.
Damp sand gripped her toes and squished under her soles, and immediately Dream Undone began to squirm. You too nasty, she said patting his back. Almost a week now you don’t have a sea bath, you well overdue. You can’t let me go to that cantankerous old woman by meself. She held him firmly as the waves ebbed at her feet. The water chilled her, making her tremble as it rose to her knees. Dream Undone yelped softly, trying to climb on her head. You betta behave or me go fling you in mek de fish eat you, she whispered to the dog, his body wound like a scarf around her neck. The water swelled above her waist, and the chorus of the ocean called to her in soft melodious rhythms.
She knew she had to take the plunge but hesitated, scanning the water, till she lost her balance and fell, splayed. Dream Undone escaped her grasp and she saw him swimming frantically away from her towards the shore, and she was listening now. Was ready to hear what Yemaja wanted to say to her. Closing her eyes, she allowed the currents to embrace her, taking her under into their chambers.
Her body relaxed into the arms of the ocean, and God’s Child felt herself floating like a plastic Buddha, bubbles like diamonds circling her face.