March 21, 2014
So much I don’t know. There’s a little abrasion or skin irritation on the back of my left knee. Is it from waves bumping me into the jetty rocks or something else in the water? The sea I want to take lightly and comfortably, at least walking out from shore.
Only by repeated immersion am I going to make this like butter. Just get my skills and swim/snorkel/dive until it’s nothing. Several years ago I wanted to fly on rollerblades like I do on my bike – as if born with it. After I cracked my tailbone you bet I never leaned back again. And despite fears, I kept on till I was night blading down that steep 4th Street hill in Fort Worth, shooting under the railroad trestle toward the Trinity River – eyes peeled for concrete cracks because any mistake at 25 mph would not be pretty.
Government Cut is one of those big old-school federal engineering projects. Opened in 1905, it’s the shipping channel for the Port of Miami. It marks the southernmost end of the barrier island of Miami Beach (South Beach). A jetty of large rocks as big as Smart Cars line either side. Mountain goat skills help to climb over them.
Big, jagged, one slip and you’ll hit something soft on your body with something very hard and maybe crumple down into those wedges of water. Only close to shore is a top spatter of concrete for a walkway.
The waves on the beach side of the jetty were too rough. Surfers were happy. On the other side, inside the Cut, the water seemed calm enough.
I didn’t want to not go. I hate not doing something I say. This past Sunday, closer to shore, I saw a homeboy spearfishing the rocks, baseball cap backwards beneath his dive mask and tube and wearing big yellow work gloves. I climbed past the new telescoping pier they’re building alongside. The last pier was obliterated in storms. A lot of summer storms now, I hear. Supposedly they’ll be able to reel the thing in when the next hurricane comes. Something new.
Keeping my bike gloves and Champion shirt on, I climbed down onto a flatter rock, took my UnderArmour shoes off and fitted the fins and mask, making sure of a good face seal. Slipped into the water. A swirl of flashing gold flakes – sand particles – and a clump of little fish the size of arrowheads all pointed face forward like one large composite arrowhead. I don’t know who they were.
The water was lower visibility than expected. Only a few feet. Translucent blue-greens and yellows, with sand bottom below, then sudden rocks right in front of my face. Sand and silt. Fine-tuning my kick like coach Thaddeus’s been showing me in a Lauderdale pool, I swam out along the rocks maybe 50 yards. The rolling waves inside the Cut were picking up. Occasionally they crashed with white spray against the rocks. They tried to push me. At water level I imagined caves along some remote Yucatan coast.
I swam back and rode a break in the swells to slip onto the flat rock I’d come in off. Many rocks closest to the water are concreted with hard little whitish shells. I think they’re barnacles but again I don’t know. I saw no other fish.
Hidden out there, I sat for a while like a seal pup as water drained off my body, until the increasing waves seemed they were having second thoughts about me being back on land. It’s always cool to be somewhere where nobody else knows you are.
Had a thought: Do you think the term “sea change” comes from how things change in the water suddenly, so completely?
Heading back, somebody had spray-painted in black “Rome wasn’t built” on one of the rocks. A three-pointed crown was on top that.
I rode my bike up the beach road of packed sand then through the dune cut, parting through a flock of vacationing black women heading to the ocean. The fluffy-haired one grabbed my wet butt and said “Hey Boo!” as I passed. I smiled.
To finish drying I sat like a lizard in the sun on the boardwalk’s rock wall. 100 yards away this older blatino man in a baseball cap with a little pot-belly straining his red t-shirt and jeans tapped two bongos. They sounded as if their skins were not tightly stretched, drums distant like a jungle coast somewhere.