by Chris Hlad…
I don’t know why I paid the parking meter. Obviously, I didn’t need to. I’m pretty certain I did it because it was the right thing to do, and despite my many faults, I always try to do what is right.
I didn’t bother looking at the surf from atop the cliff; most of the time I do, but there are instances when I know that I’m going out regardless of the conditions, and this day – especially this day – was one of those days. It was summer – early summer; just after the fourth of July – and the water wasn’t quite warm enough to trunk it yet, so in addition to my surfboard, I grabbed my spring suit and my cooler full of food, beverage and the other thing.
I walked across the dirt parking lot, and there wasn’t the slightest hint of a breeze, even though it was close to five in the afternoon which usually meant at least a hint of wind.
That was just find with me. Depending on the direction of the wind, it could make or break a surf session, and I wanted this one to be special. But you know what? For whatever reason, I knew the conditions would be perfect and tailor made for my liking. I just knew, and when I just ‘knew’ things, I didn’t question it.
As usual, when I got to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beautiful Pacific which had been the one constant in my life through better or worse, till death do us part, my breath was taken away. Was this always the case?
I’ve always had the deepest love, respect, fear, sense of peace and utter awe in her presence. I’m not capable of adequately describing all of the emotions that I have for her, nor do I have enough time remaining to try, but I’m sure you get my point. At least I hope you do. Personally, I think it’s impossible to describe in words any type of love. Similes and metaphors will only get you so far.
I walked down the path leading to my mistress, taking my time, smelling the sage and still being offended by the graffiti that some genius decided to spray on one of the boulders. Never mind that. The ocean would be here long after time eroded that nonsense.
When I got to the bottom of the trail, it was mid tide, which was always my favorite tide at this particular spot. I looked out at my favorite take off spot – a perfect left breaking off a reef that went how far out, I have no idea – and while the waves weren’t huge, they looked fun. And, there were only a couple other people out who were surfing a couple hundred yards North of my take off spot.
This beach – my favorite beach which shall remain nameless out of respect for her privacy – is relatively unknown, unless you know where to go. If you try to find it on your own, more than likely you’d drive past it half a dozen times. Sometimes you can get cell reception there, sometimes not. It never really made a difference to me; when I’m there, I’m there, immersed in the locale, and nothing else matters, which is rare for me.
No counting. No thinking of laundry. No worrying about washing my hands. No worries of spreading germs. No burden of the end of the world resting on my shoulders. Screw all that.
I put my gear up by the base of the cliff. I knew nobody was going to steal it – it wasn’t one of those kind of beaches – and took my shirt off and put on my spring suit.
Sometimes I hesitate before going into the water, watching for a bit, seeing what she’s doing, seeing if her mood is consistent or fickle. Sometimes I just know. Like everything else today, I didn’t need to guess. As always, I knew I was blessed to just be in her presence.
I negotiated my way through the rock field that led to the hard, wet sand, surfboard under my right arm, and put the board down long enough only to put my leash on my right ankle.
I paddled out smoothly, stroking evenly – gracefully – over the incoming waves, something only learned by experience. Surfing is one of those things that really can’t be taught. Maybe that’s why it remains nothing short of sacred to those who never stop.
When I got to my favorite take off spot at my favorite break, I just stayed there for a bit, letting a few sets passing me by, reflecting on just how much time I’d spent here. So many hours, so many memories. So much joy, so much pleasure, respect learned when I got in over my head, but always paddling in a little wiser.
And here came my wave. I paddled hard, popped to my feet, and rode the wave as perfectly as I possibly could, not doing any hot dogging or tricks, but gliding down the face with what I like to think was some sort of grace.
I rode the wave all the way to the beach; all I wanted was one last wave.
With no further use for the board, I left it by the trail entrance that let to the parking lot, hoping somebody else would get some use out of her.
I took off my spring suit, left it by the board, and walked back to my cooler. There was a bottle of Cabernet in there and a bottle of Temazepam, both of which I finished in about fifteen minutes.
It was the perfect ending to a not so perfect life, but it’s the ending we always remember, isn’t it? Before I closed my eyes for the last time, I looked at my beloved Pacific, whispered ‘Thank You’, letting the burdens of the world off my tired shoulders.
About the Author
Chris Hlad is a SoCal native who enjoys surfing, sailing, and dumbing-down his brain every chance he gets. By day Chris works for corporate America because, quite frankly, he is a sadist. By night, he masquerades as a worst-selling author. See more fiction by Chris at cpaulhlad.ghost.io.
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