I stumbled to the porch swing cradling a bottle of pinot noir. The wind blew a salty kiss on my face but stung my pride. I sacrificed everything.
A lone seagull perched on the fence post. It mocked me.
“Go!” I threw my glass at it and brought the bottle to my lips. I grumbled at my life of working to appease clean cut American corporations waiting for me to become a stereotype. Even when following their rules, I still wasn’t good enough. I will never be what they want.
I stared at the sparkle of ripples shimmering under the surf. I glared at the rolling waves, but softened at the tug of the Gulf calling to me.
An urge to reach the cool rush compelled me to jump up and rip off my flower print sundress. I tossed the light fabric onto the sand and jogged toward the cleansing roar. Regaining a spark of my childhood self, I met the current with a giggle.
It had been years since I escaped to the beach. My parents took me every year as a child, but I worked myself boring trying to “climb the ladder.”
I kicked out into the water, arms chopping through the waves. A splash of energy renewed my smile at the memories. They can’t stop me.
I turned onto my back to tread water. The air danced with seagulls. I spread my arms and legs out straight and relaxed floating. Images of swimming until land became a memory flooded my mind. I longed to let the water carry me forever.
The memory of my father washed over me with hope. He could swim all day and never grew tired. His job as a swim coach fit him but never suited me. I preferred the pulsing rhythm of natural bodies of water, hated the confines of indoor pools.
Fresh spray coated my skin, healed inner wounds that numbed the unfairness of life. My anger washed away and my father’s thick accent rattled in my ears like a dream, “Don’t let them change you. Don’t let them take away who you are, Mija.”
I shifted forward, sinking underwater for a moment. When I resurfaced, I rubbed my eyes and kicked hard.
“Mine-Mine-Mine.” A gull dipped low.
My eye-lashes grew heavy.
The calls reminded me that I belonged to myself.
The sound shook me.
I would have what I earned.
I swam to the beach with a new goal. It was so easy. All I had to do was run up the sand.
Granules stuck to my feet like spilled sugar. I bounded up the porch steps, grabbed my towel, and wrapped it around my body. The warm breeze offered new strength. I wrung out my hair and grabbed my phone off the wicker table sitting beside the classic porch swing. I clutched it tight, drew my arm back and threw it into the shallows. And that was when I became my own boss.
Marie McCloskey likes to let her work speak for itself.