Some might say that Adam was a boy who always had his head in the clouds. This was true until one day when his head went from high in the clouds to far, far below them; fathoms below the ocean's green, frothy surface. One day, he became thoughtful. One day, he became perceptive. One day, he became obsessed. It all began with an average walk down an familiar beach on a day like any other.
He recalled her swimming away from him, faster than a sailfish. The sun on the horizon was dancing with the sea, sharing her beautiful colors with the ocean. Adam, however, was unmoved. For he knew that his was not true beauty; this was not true radiance. The colors of the sun and sea would never match those of the beautiful creature he had saved. This was when his dissatisfaction with his world began. The stars in his heavens paled in comparison to the starfish that were swallowed by the ocean's black depths, the birds in the sky were not nearly as enticing as the beautiful counterparts in the sea, and the dreamy wind on his face was not nearly as indulging as the waves caressing his body. Adam was obsessed with his maritime fantasies and longed for nothing more than to dive below the waves and swim deep down, towards his beloved one, no matter the cost.
In the mornings, fishermen often passed by Adam on the way to the docks while he sat in the ocean's swell and welcomed her salty embrace.
"'Hoy, Adam! What are ya doin' out the beach at this odd hour?" Adam, however, did not even acknowledge their presence. Perhaps, for a moment, they noticed his fingers twitch. "It's rather cold out, boyo. Where's your coat?" It was a cold morning, and the sea was dangerously chilled. Adam took no notice, however, and remained sitting in the cold, frothy waters. "How's your grandmother doin' these days? Holdin' up fine?" At this, Adam turned his head slowly. They noticed the dark circles around his eyes and his sunken cheeks. This brief acknowledgement of their presence did not last long before Adam returned his eyes fixedly to the sea.
They left the poor boy, shaking their heads, mourning the boy's sanity and happiness. Children would point, only for their mothers to quickly gather them up and carry them away from the strange boy. He took no offense to the children's insensitive nature; for they knew no better. Nobody did. None of them could understand him.
There he waited, day after day, ignoring his responsibilities. His grandmother noticed the changes in her grandson's behavior, but knew not what to do. Meals went un-eaten, the chickens went un-fed, and the wood pile for the fires gradually lost height. Alma was a strong, providing woman, hardened by the loss of her husband, her son, and his wife. Adam reminded her daily of his father and the strength and determination that he held at Adam's young age. Now his grandmother recognized the similar deterioration in her grandson that her son experienced during the illness that stole her family away from her.
She had raised her grandson on tales of the beautiful mermaids that lived on the seafloor, the vibrant and wonderful sea-gardens that they kept, and the powerful sea-king that ruled over the ocean. Adam would tell his grandmother of his dreams, where met and swam with the undersea people. His mind often strayed into the waves where he lived, loved, and flourished like the sea grass. Yet, all of his life, these thoughts stayed locked tightly and hidden away in his mind until his encounter.
Alma wept for her grandson, and Adam wept for himself. His salty tears mixed with those of the ocean, and, together, he hoped that they would reach his beloved . He hoped that she would hear his call and come to his side, as he once had for her.
Alma's feet moved slowly and carefully on the gravely sand. When her grandson was missing, she knew to look for him on the beach. She knew of her grandson's obsession and hoped only that she was not too late. This was how she lived now: forever in fear that she would lose her grandson, like she had lost the rest of her loved ones. She feared that he might sail away, never to return. She feared that he might drown himself, foolishly trying to reach the ocean floor. She feared that the townspeople, afraid of his terrifying obsession, would harm her poor grandson. He seemed to be no more than a shell left abandoned by a crab on the beach: hollow and cold. Alma would give anything to have her old grandson back.
"Adam, it is time to come home." He was unmoving. She stepped into the water before him, blocking his view of the sea. She could see the tearstains on his face, outlined in salt and dirt on his sunken cheeks. He smelled of urine and filth. "Please, boy. Listen to what I'm saying." She put a frail hand on his shoulder. He slowly dug his fingers into the sand, gripping the grains, as if the loose gravel could anchor him to the spot. She tried to shake him out of his trance, but he would not sway. She was not strong enough to move him, and he had no desire to be moved. She looked out at the sea, pleading with it to return her grandson, but there was no response. The sea did not mock her; the sea did not console her.
Alma regretted telling Adam the tales of the mer-folk. Adam regretted his encounter with the beautiful creature, as well. The world he lived in was no longer satisfying. The closest he could get to his beloved was the shore, but even the wake was not enough. Still, Adam waited. He was prepared to wait for a lifetime or more for her join him in his silent vigil. He was coral: hardened, steadfast, and abandoned by life.