Ft. Myers, FL – February 20, 2013
Days cut into you out here. They slice away thin pieces, translucent pieces, pieces you don’t notice until you feel like nothing but skin hanging on bones and your 27 ounce paddle feels leaden.
Nothing comes easy. Nothing. Not packing the boat. Not sliding it down the beach and into the water. Not paddling through the still ocean. It all feels like mud.
Just seventeen miles across a flat bay on a windless day.
It should be simple, but I’ve lost so many pieces somehow, drained away in rainstorms, ripped off in the wind, melted in the sun. Sometimes I think I’ve found them all. Sometimes I want to hold myself up like a restored vase and proclaim myself “as good as new!” in a loud voice even as glue dries in the cracks, but then I have a day like today, where those jagged lines shine bright and I notice all the little pieces that I’ve never found.
And I fight for every foot of water.
But a long time ago a man in Ft. Myers who I never met promised me a pint of ice cream if I made it that far. He sent me a picture of the white tubs filled with different colors, swirls of caramel, chocolate chunks, and crumbled cookies.
“Any one you want,” he said.
And there he was, at the end of seventeen difficult miles, waiting on the beach, ready to take me to an ice cream shop, so I could glue the pieces back together again with sugar and cream. An hour later I stared at the bottom of an empty cup, six flavors gone, feeling full and happy again.
“As good as new,” I thought.