Looking down, I saw the black and rolling aisle of water. Darkened private boats were wailing softly at their moorings, packed on either side along the channel. At the end, the shoreline narrowed just before the lighthouse, making choppy waves that blended into rolling sea beyond.
I froze, and listened.
This late at night, the rushing blank of engine noise along the bridge was gone, and every sound that it obscured was now perfect. The wind, though far too soft for me to hear directly, sifted through a thousand ropes that hung from every mast and mooring all around the harbor. Flexing, vibrating, scraping across each other. Now and then, the weathered hull of some excited vessel ground up along a post, a tearing, harsh noise like fighting animals, human enough to be alarming.
Every bird and insect fighting in the woods along the valley added to the chorus, riding out above the crumpled boom of ocean surf -- a sound that reached my ears but also knocked against the hollow space inside my lungs, even half a mile from the shore. Hearing and feeling this, my mind untangled itself, and I forgot I was alive.
The moon was undulating slowly over each distended ripple cast out from the leaning boats. Along the wooden causeway laid between a set of empty berths, a solitary egret perched in careful silence, long and slender neck extended over smooth opaque water.
It's these perfect states of attentiveness, where I stop thinking and submerge myself in the sensory moment, that I remember where I came from. Like a monster sliding just beneath the surface of still water, the memory has been shut into a different world, but I can stand at this quiet edge of my island of stability and see it there. Alive, and moving around.
Like the tip of a tail flicking at me, I felt the monster pass. An internal shudder, spreading out across the open channel I had relaxed into for the moment. I remembered how intense my feelings had been, and how hard I had to squeeze them just to stay above the water. I stared out at the harbor, wondering if it, and the greater world beyond, was compensation enough for the parts of me that I'd shut down, killed, or left behind, when I crawled up onto my island.
The egret bunched together, pushing out it's legs, and fell into the ocean with a gentle splash. It then immediately turned around, and hopped back onto the planks, trailing water. Pulling it's head in close and arching it's back, all it's feathers seemed to fluff outwards at once. Then, it relaxed, as dry as before, and resumed it's pose on the edge of the causeway.
The worst part of it, I realized, was that I was missing those feelings. I wanted to find some way off my island. Not permanently, but from moment to moment. I wanted get closer to that monster again. ... Before I lost it entirely.
I looked up from the darkened harbor, searching the sky, watching the stars vibrate in place. What was helpful? Being alone was helpful. My music was helpful. Some of the times with my beloved had touched me. ... I found those times fascinating. I remembered a time years ago, with another woman I'd been close to. One night we'd both made love in a way that was totally unlike us. We'd bitten and clawed at each other, and slammed against the walls, and drawn bloody scratches all across each other. We hadn't expected it. Afterwards, we hadn't known how to recreate it, either.
Thinking of my beloved, and how tender we were to each other, I realized something. If I wished to explore that part of me, I could only really do it with her help and knowledge. It would have to be in cooperation with a person who understood that -- sometimes -- I enjoyed my internal demons.
The egret compressed itself again, and fell headlong in the water. This time, when it hopped back out, it spat a big fish onto the planks.