The Colors

Written By: Joy  Seago

The Colors A blue and white striped boatneck shirt peeking out behind a billowy white scarf. Dark shaded aviator sunglasses. Blonde hair pulled back in a lazy bun. Bronzed hands thrown in the air in mock fright. Pink lips agape, forming a scream betrayed by slightly upturned edges. White foam spray guiding murky, green waves. Overcast clouds illuminated by a distant sun, producing a cheerfully pale grey sky. The photo I held in my feeble, arthritic hands was black and white, but I didn’t notice because the colors were present in my mind. In the solitude of my bedroom, the photo from that day brought back the memory so vividly that I could feel the strong winds coming off the Atlantic. I couldn’t recall exactly how old I had been . . . must have been in my 30s, but I could remember the excitement that surged through me as I ran from the roaring abyss the moment the icy water touched the heels of my feet, and I remembered him. We pulled into the parking lot at Cooper’s Beach. It was virtually empty. The weekend after Labor Day brought an eerie stillness to a place that just a week before had been overflowing with people and the brilliant colors of summer that followed their parade. Now it was just Chris and me, a few bored seagulls, and a silent elderly couple. They were set up in their beach chairs, side by side, facing the water, reading the daily paper, languidly handing sections back and forth between themselves in a fluid, rehearsed manner that bespoke years of experience. We conspicuously watched them for a while from the boardwalk. They seemed to be just another fixed piece of the landscape painted into the beach scene before us. Chris leaned over and whispered in my ear, “that’ll be us someday.” I smiled to imagine that it could be true. He took my hand in his, twirled me around, and undaunted by the lack of sun and 60 degree temperature, we made our way through the sinking sand toward the raging sea. “Stand closer to the water,” he motioned, “it won’t bite. Let it pool around your feet. It’ll make a good picture.” He held the camera up as I inched backwards, facing him, but keeping a suspicious eye on the tumultuous backdrop behind me. He snapped the photo. And another. And another. I glanced back. The water changed into clear swirls that quickly approached. When it swiftly engulfed my feet, I let out a piercing howl and ran to him as he snapped another. He laughed his hearty laugh so loud, I could hear him far above the crashing of the angry sea that chased me into his arms. I had never been to the Hamptons before . . . had never even been to the Atlantic Ocean. It was still over 100 degrees in Texas when we boarded the plane the day before. I had expected tepid warmth from months of being heated, which he knew, and it made him laugh even deeper when he saw my shock. A common passerby might have assumed that it was my first encounter with the strange liquid or that I had seen a shark in the nearby distance. I gave him a whack on the shoulder for not having told me and then dared him to wade out into the whaling waves while I took a picture. He promptly handed over the camera, bowed up his arms and chest, smiled confidently, and proceeded to walk with determination into the ocean until the cuffs of his khaki shorts darkened and then disappeared underneath the surface. He placed his hands leisurely into his pockets and turned to me with his eyebrows raised and winked obviously unaffected and proud of his ability to withstand the arctic waters. He turned back towards the horizon, swaying with the dancing current. The strong tide didn’t intimidate him, the freezing waters weren’t unwelcome. I watched him in his native habitat, another creature of the sea. He grew up here, racing his friends on their bike,s as soon as the last bell rung, to see who could make it to the boardwalk first. He was a part of the ocean, and it was in him. And in my mind on that day, he became another part of my Cooper’s Beach painting. And on that day, we wiggled our feet into the earth, carved our initials into the landscape with a harpooned stick, and fell inlove. Just remembering my first trip to the Hamptons and the feel of him so near was enough to substantially weary me, and yet I drew strength from my memory. I pulled the picture to my chest and sunk back into the bed. I ran my weak hands over the dip in the mattress where he had laid beside me for the last 40 years, and I shut my eyes feeling the warmth of the golden sun as the clouds parted, and I smiled.