Salt Water and Wounds

As soon as you open your car door, you can smell the sea air. You begin to feel the knitted balls of stress in your shoulders start to unknot themselves as soon as you smell the salty ocean breeze. You feel the mixture of sun and salt coat your shoulders. The aroma and hazy mist attack your senses and sooth your body and soul immediately. It's better than going to the spa for the day. Your toes are itching to feel sand between them, to feel the pressure of your feet relieved as you tread along hot patches of sandy mounds.

You are familiar with this small Jersey shore town. A quaint coastal town with old Victorian Houses and an old fashioned Main Street. You spent many summers here with your grandmother. You drove past her old house, and were haunted by old memories of rocking chairs, cards and iced-tea on the porch. The house seems so different to you now, wildflowers gracing the front lawn, geraniums hanging on the porch, but your memories are hidden away in the attic. You felt a flush of remembrance as you drove through town to your rented cottage.

You are quick to empty your car, change into your bathing suit, grab a chair and head for the boardwalk. You feel almost feel like a girl again, the cares of your world slipping away as you reach the wooded planks and hear the crashing of the water on the shores. You need nothing but your beach pass, your hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, book, the shorts you're wearing, towel and the chair you're carrying. It almost all fits in your pockets.

You dig your chair into the sand and plop down. You don't read the book; you look around and try to remember everything. And try to forget at the same time. You walk down to the crashing waves, feeling like that little girl facing the big world for the first time. The waves are crashing, foam running up around your ankles. You know that you are small in the universe, that your problems and scars are small comparatively. The ocean reminds you of this. It reminds you that you will survive and that you are strong, no matter what it swallows and no matter what it gives.


When you were sixteen, you met Dan. He had been throwing around a Nerf ball with some friends when it landed on your towel and roused you. He was tall, tan, blond, good looking and had a sweet nature to boot. He invited you to come over and join a larger group. You had been getting lonely, you figured why not. You learned that you and Dan were "Bennies" or not locals. Dan was from Princeton. His parents were teachers, who owned a purple house on the other side of town. The two of you clicked immediately.

It was nice to have some kids your age to hang out with; even if it was just on the boardwalk with skateboards, dirt bikes and ice cream. There wasn't much else to do. Some of the town kids had jobs; you and Dan were both there to help your families out, you for your grandmother, he his parents with the renovation of their house.

You liked his sweet nature, his calm and gentle demeanor. He taught you how to skim on the water. You taught him how to float. You can be quiet together. One night he walked across town in the rain to see if you wanted to go to the movies, but your grandmother said no. You hated her that night. She knew you were angry.

The next night after dinner, she lets the two of you go out for ice cream. You took a walk under the pier, the cool sand refreshing your toes. You sat in the damp sand and finished your ice cream, talked about everything and nothing. He told you about his mom and that she drinks too much and he's embarrassed by it. You knew it hurt him to admit, but for some reason he just needed to tell someone. You didn't know what to say, so you reached over and squeezed his hand.

You sat like that for a while, letting the moment pass, because you were not mature enough to handle it. Dan reached over and kissed you. You don't stop him because it felt sumptuous, and you were curious. He leaned you back into the sand and asked you if this was okay, you nodded your head in approval. You were nervous because no one had ever touched you like this before, but you were excited and getting wet at the same time. You think this was new to Dan too, because he seemed to fumble with his hands a bit, like he was exploring a new map, one he had never seen. The feel of his fingers over your pubic hair for the first time was rough and tantalizing at the same time. You started arching your back to him, you're not sure what you or your body wanted or needed. In that moment before no return, you saw police lights on the beach. You tidy your clothes up and head home, flushed by the thrill.

Next summer, he's taller and stronger and built more like a man. His parents are still renovating their house. You've had a busy year and had many boyfriends. Your friendship clicks right back to where it once was. You never talk about the night you fooled around. It's a hidden memory, like a dusty old letter hidden away in an attic trunk never to be found, a secret between the two of you.

At the end of the summer, right before you're both supposed to leave and go back home, you both get drunk. You take a walk to the beach and look at the stars in the sky and listen to the surf pound on the beach. You talk about your dreams for the future; you talk about how much you love the beach, how much you love life. You do something stupid. You take a walk down to the beach and climb the jetty rocks, all black, wet and slippery, with seaweed strewn against the surfaces. Somehow, you had gotten into your heads that you would find starfish as souvenirs. You slip and cut the bottom of your foot and get a deep slice right under your arm pit. Dan is helping you get up, you are laughing hysterically, when he falls and hits his head.

You had never had stitches before. You had never worn a black dress before. You had never been to a funeral before. You stopped believing in a higher being. These were your wounds.


You are angry. You are angry that she left. You are angry that she left things like this. Like such a mess. You sit looking around your apartment, when you start hearing history echoing to you. The walls are talking. They are closing in on you. You hate her because she is right. You love her because she is right. You hate yourself, because you are afraid of facing it. You look around you apartment and realize that Cameron is nowhere. You go to the bedroom, and grab her pillow and inhale her scent. No wonder, she's angry, you are treating her little better than a whore right now. You are an asshole. Wilson is right. You don't deserve her. She just gave you a wake up call.


You are lying on the wicker chaise with your coffee and a book in the morning sun, when you hear a familiar roar of engine pull up in front of the cottage. Hmm, you raise an eyebrow to yourself, you are impressed. It's only midweek. You certainly didn't expect him to fold this soon.

You hear him approach and climb the three steps of your porch. You lay your book across your chest and look at him. Secretly, you are thrilled to see him; you are restraining yourself in your chair. He sits in the chair next to you. You look at him, using your hand to shield the sun from your eyes (as well as your surprise).

"Hi." He says cautiously. "Nice place."

Thanks. You ask him what he's doing here. (You wondering how close to the truth he'll get at the first try.)

"Well, I heard there was this really cool classic car show here this weekend, so I thought I would come check it out."

It's only Wednesday.

"Well, I wanted to miss the weekend traffic, you know me and my leg and all that traffic. It just wouldn't be a happy mix." He shrugs at you in his Housian style. You can't help but smile a little at him. (You wish you could stop yourself.)

So, you decided to come.

"Couldn't you offer me some coffee first?"

You smile. He has to be coaxed into almost any conversation that might pierce his skin. You get up to back inside to get him coffee. As you walk past him, he reaches out and brushes your fingers. You feel that jolt of energy from him. You slow yourself and look at him. He doesn't look at you. You go fetch that coffee.

You return to the porch and hand him a mug. You resist the urge to reach out and touch him, even just briefly on the shoulder or head. You miss him deeply. You know that things are a mess. You how big of deal it is for him to be here right now. You have to accept that as admission, as House giving more than he can normally give, without verbalizing it. You recognize that you should demand more after all he has put you through, but he is not your typical guy and you believe if and when he loves, he loves much deeper.

So, he decided to take some vacation?

"Hmm, something like that." He pauses and looks at you. "I threw a little fit after you left, and Wilson told Cuddy we were dating, after it basically spread about the hospital, thank you, Doctor Chase. Wilson and Cuddy were tired of dealing with me, so they forced me to."

Ah. So they're throwing him to you?

"Not really. They don't know I'm here."

Is he going to be in a better mood?

"I think so."


You walk with her up to the boardwalk. You still don't know what possessed you to pack up your car and drive out here on a lark. You missed her horribly; you felt like a mad man, you were going out of your skin. If Cuddy and Wilson hadn't forced you on the vacation, you were just about to take it. (You don't tell them this, you like having your secrets.)

You feel like a fish out of water. You swore you would never go to the beach again or put shorts on. Cameron convinces you that a pair of cargo pants rolled partially up your legs will serve sufficiently as shorts, though you are despising your pale legs that haven't seen the sun in years. She fawns over your arms in a t-shirt and that gives you a bit more confidence as you slip your sunglasses on.

You sit on a bench on the pier looking out at the expanse of the ocean. The warm sun feels good on your face, your skin that is usually on in a temperature regulated building. Everything is calm. There are men fishing off the pier, people strolling on the boardwalk, quiet groups on the sand, birds cooing around looking for food. You are surprised by the serenity. There is no crazy mayhem on the boardwalk, no fried food smells, no loud ringing noises and no arcade games. (Wait. NO arcade games?).

You ask Cameron what brought her to this place, especially because you never expected to find an Atheist in a coastal shore town that was created for religious retreat originally. (You did your homework.)

She smiles at you and begins to tell you about her summers down here. She tells you long stories about her grandmother and their time together. How she taught her to cook and play cards. (Aha, so that's how she learned how to make such great chicken cutlets and kick your ass in poker!) And then she tells you about Dan. And the pier and jetty rocks below.

You never noticed those scars on her.

She smiles at you. "Some scars heal better than others. Some scars aren't on the skin. Besides, my grandma always told me that the salt water always helped heal wounds."

You take the flip-flop off her foot and run your finger along a tiny faded scar. You would have never noticed it if she hadn't told you about it before. You lift her arm to look at the slice she told you about below her arm-pit (another place you never thought to look) and see a four-inch scar, not as nicely healed as her foot. You put her arm down and kiss her shoulder, noting the tiny freckles mixed in with her tan, and the smell of coconuts permeating from her.

She never went back into the ocean after Dan's accident, did she?

"No," she shakes her head. "I never went back in. Just ankle deep. I was thinking I might give it a try during this vacation. There are some things I need to let go of too."

You take her hand and put it in yours. You forget sometimes that you're not the only one with a story, with a history, with old scars, with things that need to be let go of. Seeing this in Allison's eyes was one of the things that drew you to her. You see how in ways she is like you, afraid of losing more (she has lost so many people already), and daring you to cut it first. You two keep playing this game, this pull and tug. You realize you need to stop. You keep coming back to each other.

You do something you don't normally do, especially in public. You put your arm around her shoulders and pull her towards your body. This is why you sped here.

You go for a drive in the Corvette, enjoying the summer night sky. In a nearby town, Allison treats you to all the fried food found on boardwalk that you could possibly want. You're in heaven. She laughs at you, as she reaches over to brush powdered sugar off your shirt. Now, you really feel like an overgrown child as you ride the Ferris wheel and the Bumper Cars, and play all the games in the arcade. This is turning into the best vacation you have ever been on. No lie.

When you get back to cottage it is late, and you are coming off your sugar high. However, you want nothing more than to crawl into bed and feel Allison's body in your arms. You just want to touch her, feel her skin, smell her hair, and taste her mouth. It's easy for you to get lost in her. Sometimes sex is fast and furious; sometimes it is teasing and tantalizing, sometimes a game. Tonight it is none of those things. It is rediscovery, as you let your fingers travel over every part of her body, feeling every muscle, every tendon, searching for any scar or wound that you don't know about yet. You want to soothe her. It is slow, as you take Cameron in your arms, trying to kiss away all her fears and doubts about you, all her stress, all her anger, everything. This night is about her. Your mouth slowly caressing her body, she is hanging gently in your arms. You never let her go. You look into her eyes, and you know that looking at her you are also seeing yourself, and you've never been this emotional with her. She is pleading with you, urging you on. You move slowly in her, rocking her, your arms behind her back bringing her head toward you so you can kiss her deeply and see her eyes. Your slow buildup has brought a deliberate ache and a long, burning release, that leaves you tangled together in each other's limbs until the sun rises.


You wake in the morning to the sound of seagulls, sunshine and a note on the other pillow. House writes that he went to run some errands and pick up some crumb buns, he'll be right back. You wake like a cat, arching and stretching. You wish he was here, but you know he's coming back.

You decide to take your morning run. You run past Dan's parents purple house. The paint is fresh. And there is a sign in front saying they won something in the town's historical society for renovation. You think that they always put that house first. You know you need to stop blaming yourself for that accident. That it was an accident. Dan would not want you to be doing this to yourself. You are sure of this.

You return to the cottage and House is sitting on the porch with coffee and a bag of crumb buns. He pulls you onto his lap and kisses you. Then he wrinkles his nose to tell you that you're stinky and to get in the shower.

After you're clad in your bathing suit, you exit onto to the porch for your coffee and morning goodie. You are surprised to see House packing for the beach. You see he went shopping.

"Yes, I figured, I would keep you company on the beach today."

Okay, you shake your head, amazed at his purchases. You nibble at your bun and examine his goods. He bought a fancy beach chair with wheels on it, the kind that gets pulled with all your items on it, no need to carry it. There is an umbrella and a boogie board? You look at confused, you are sure your face is all twisted. You see he has long swim trunks on. You shake you're head, he's really trying.

You find a nice place on the sand to plant the umbrella. You know today you will try to go in the water, but you need to get nice and hot first in the morning sun. You pull out your book and snuggle into your chair. You watch House pull out a newspaper. You sigh. The hardest thing to read on a beach, he'll have to learn. He always likes things the hard way you think.

Then you note what he's reading. The Real Estate section?

"I know you want to ask, so just ask," he says from behind the paper.

What is he reading? And why.

He puts the paper and his lap and looks at you. "What do you think? Shall we repaint the apartment? Any idea about colors? And try to make a whole new place? Or should I just sell it and we can buy a new place?"

We? A new place?

"Yes, I said we."

You look at him nervously.

"So? What do you think?"

You think a new place. You smile at him. (You really want to get up and knock him on his back and into the sand like a big Labrador.)

"That's what I thought." He picks up the paper and keeps reading.

In the late morning sun, you're lying on the blanket reading your book when House lowers himself down next to you. You look at him. He quickly pecks you on the mouth and looks around.

"So is it okay?"

Is what okay?

"Buying a new place thing?"

Yup. (You love that this is his way of discussing things).

"Great. We'll start looking when we get back."

He sits up and grabs something out of his backpack. He puts his hand on your back. "Want to go in the water?" He gives you the puppy dog eyes. "I can't go in without you."

Okay, you nod. (You're nervous. You can do this.)

You sit up, and House really catches you off guard. He stops a man walking by, "Hey buddy, can you take a picture of me and my girlfriend?"

"Sure thing."

And he hands the man a disposable camera. He asks the guy to take two or three shots. You think he saw the shock register on your face when he pulled out a camera.

He uses his Boogy Board instead of his cane, but you help each other walk to and approach the shoreline. You help each other get past the breaking point, past the crashing waves, past the sea foam: you holding the Boogy Board tight and he being the strength for your fear. The water is cool and salty on your warm skin. You try to adjust to the feeling of being in the water, of not being able to touch the ground. House is holding onto to his board, resting his torso on it. You are treading water a little frantically, when he comes closer to you. And it's just his closeness, his proximity that comforts you. And then you find a calm place where you can float peacefully for a while among the waves in the ocean.

end part 3