The sea was blue, calm and inviting.
It was not supposed to be this way.
The sea was supposed to be stormy, gray, hostile; it was supposed to hiss at his approach and beat the white rocks like a beast within a cage. It needed to whip him with salty spray and sting at his skin with its cold wind. It needed to roar and fight the tide for the right to overtake him, to drag him under, to destroy his fragile human self.
He needed the sea to be that way.
Instead, it welcomed him, with smiling blue eyes and the gentle crash of the waves. It stretched out long before him, meeting the sky as blue as itself with gentle white clouds and seabirds calling over him. It lulled him into a sense of perfect peace, tranquility beyond measure, a life untainted by the worries of itself.
He knew it couldn't really be this way. The sea had tricked him before, and he would not let it again.
Under the surface of perfect blue, he knew there were undercurrents, waiting for him, waiting to pull him down, down, away from the sunlight, away from the world of streets and houses, into that dark world of endless water. He'd gotten away, he wasn't going back. He wasn't going back to that life.
He'd come here to remember. To remember why he couldn't go back. He was happy here, wasn't he? Here on land, with the muddled brown and green beneath his feet and the stability that came with it. There were no changing currents here, no cold water swirling down from the north to freeze his blood. The wind was like that, certainly, but there is escape from the wind. And he'd already escaped from the water. He wasn't going back.
The sea smiled at him again, playing with the sunlight in its waves. He didn't smile back. As soon as a cloud touched the sun, he knew the blue smile would disappear, and the sea would stare at him with a gray confidence. It knew he would return.
But he wasn't going to. He wasn't going back to be pulled under and frozen in darkness, or beaten against the rocks in the rage of the storm. He felt the bruises again in his imagination, and winced. No, he couldn't go back to that. He wouldn't. The sea was wrong.
But the blue sea still smiled at him, and the birds still called. They called him, he thought. He couldn't trust them. They were a part of the sea.
But then, he was a part of the sea too. No matter how far he ran on two feet, there was still that drop of water in his heart that called him back here, time and time again, to stare at the sea and make a choice.
Could he go back?
No, never, never again. He'd made the choice before, he would do it now, too. He would simply walk away, up the wooden steps that led off the white sand, and down the road into the town. He would stay there for a day, then go further inland, further and further until he couldn't feel it anymore, the sea pulling on his heart like gravity on his feet. And then he would be free, he'd be free finally. He could laugh again, smile again, live again. And never come back.
Was that what he really wanted? To never come back? Yes, yes, that was it! Never, ever would he come back to watch the seagulls swoop over the waves or watch the fish leap out of the water. Never again would he watch the brilliant orange sunset as the sun touched the water, and faded into inky twilight. Never again would he see the sea exhaust itself in storm, and caress those that it had bruised and broken in its waves until they were healed. Never.
This was not what he wanted.
He stared at the sea for a while longer. No. He would not go back. He would run forever, run until he couldn't feel it anymore, run until the blue in his heart and his eyes turned to brown and green, like those born to walk the earth. He would run until there was no saltwater running through his veins, until it was dirt and mud and stone. Until he was one of them, fully and completely, born of land and not of sea.
This was not what he wanted.
A hint of laughter, a splash, a sense of himself in another. She was here. He stood abruptly on feet that should not have been there and stared into the sea. Where, where, where? She was here!
She smiled at him from beneath the waves. He didn't smile back, and she darted away. He reached out his hand to call to her, then stopped, and sat back down.
He knew what he didn't want.
So what did he?
He wanted freedom. But was there freedom in running forever, in constantly staying away from where his heart longed to go? No, no there wasn't. As long as he lived, the sea would still have some part of him, whether he wanted it nor not. Was there freedom in giving in, in letting himself become himself and accepting that?
He moved to the water's edge and stared down into it. The sea was smiling above the white sand, turning everything beneath it a crystal shade of blue. It stopped just short of his feet, and as the tide fell back, his heart went with it.
That was what he wanted.
He left his shoes on the beach as he walked into the water, feeling its summer warmth wrap around him. He didn't flinch as the water got deeper, deeper still, gradually accepting him back without condition. And he smiled, actually smiled for the first time in such a long time as the water rushed over his head, playing in his hair. The sea still knew him. The facade fell away and he became himself again.
He belonged here. This was what he wanted.