Sunday, October 28, 2012

Swimming with Sharks

We took the girls to Heavens, just north of Malibu, and found an empty cove. The girls wandered over the rocks to a tide pool while Raf and I read our books, listened to our iPods, observed the random daytripper and shell-seeker. We dreamed about going to Spain and Italy next summer, discussing what the kids would eat, where to stay, lowering our expectations to simply a string of days on foreign beaches interspersed with Gaudi and gladiators. 

A pod of dolphins swam past the rocks. I counted them silently, wondering if the girls noticed them. One... two... three fins! 

"At least they're not sharks," I said to Raf, who took one earphone out and clicked off his iPhone.

"Yeah, I didn't tell you this," he said, squinting under his dark glasses, staring out to sea, "but a surfer got attacked by a shark last week, north of Santa Barbara. Guy my age."


Raf doesn't sugarcoat things. "Ate him. He washed up on the shore."

I didn't say anything at first. I blinked under my own dark glasses, searching the horizon for  answers. I wondered aloud if maybe the food supply for sharks has been affected by global warming or some other environmental illness, and maybe that's why we're hearing about more shark attacks closer to the shore.

"It's the first time a shark has killed a surfer in Southern California in 11 years," Raf said.

A few paddle boarders and kayaks sailed by the cove. My life with Raf flashed before me, glorious beach days like this one combined with the future I imagine for us, filled with traveling and surfing and weddings and grandbabies and growing old, really old, together. 

"I haven't told the kids," he said. "They'd never go back in the water."

"Or they wouldn't want you to go back in." I held my tongue though I wanted to add, Please don't get eaten by a shark... please don't get hurt ever...

He laughed. "Like I'd stop surfing because I'm afraid of sharks."

I let some time pass, considered the glint of sunlight on the glassy green surface of the water. "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you," I said, trying my best to keep my voice flat, unemotional.

"You'd be okay."

"Yeah, but -- "

"You'd be okay. That's one thing we know, unfortunately. Life goes on." 

I saw the girls rounding the top of the rocks again, waving, pink-brown skin and bikinis, big smiles, beach hair. Max and death and Isaac and sadness and the Great Unknown swirled above them like the banners that soar behind small airplanes over beaches on sunny days. The ocean lulled below them, lapping softly at the barnacles on the rocks. Understanding seeped in, and I let it sit with me.

We swim with sharks.  And life goes on. 

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