She watched the storm swirling offshore from the balcony of her oceanfront condo. The smell of the churning water engulfed her senses as she sat in awe of the power of the waves. For days she enjoyed the view of gloomy skies, fast-moving clouds and the lack of people who normally clogged the beaches. Madison would occasionally tune into the news and hear about locals up shore a few miles having just gotten their boats off the water or secured in the harbor before being harmed by the angry waters. News anchors told sad tales of swells coming ashore and surfers taking on too much despite the red flag warnings. She would listen for a few minutes, switch it off and return to her covered balcony and enjoy the calm that the view brought her.
The day he arrived, the storm had been violent throughout the night and only subsided as the morning hours quieted the tears that fell from the sky. The sun never appeared, but Madison did on the balcony unsure of what she was seeing half on the shore. As she pulled on a long flowing skirt over her bikini bottoms, she knew the danger she was preparing to approach. No one was on the beach, no one would hear screams for help over the roars of wind and waves, and yet she slipped on her shoes.
As she approached him with confident caution she was captivated, curious even. He was wrecked, beaten by more than this storm. His once massive sail now ripped to shreds and pieces of his hull were split, broken or missing completely. He was an older sailboat, but still she could tell he’d seen better days. She paid close attention to the way he moved, half stuck in the sand and half in the water, as if stuck between two worlds. She watched his efforts to break free of the sand that held him back for what seemed like the longest of battles, until he’d go still in a slump of defeat. She’d watched this cycle maybe four or five times and just as she realized she had settled way too comfortably into the sand to watch him the waves roared up and there was no time to run. In a moment she imagined being lost at sea and that being her fate.
When the first wave hit, she steadied herself against him and though soaked she didn’t float away. His boards that she had pushed her feet into gave way. As the second wave rose up she layed back onto the sand and closed her eyes. She heard the wave crash, but felt no impact, the water retreated and she opened one eye, then the other. He had sheltered her, leaned in, over and taken the impact of the wave. The water retreated and she sat looking at him as he righted himself again in the sand. Still battered and beaten he somehow now appealed to her as regal and she saw some glimmer of hope in him even if not on him. She watched him for a long time that day, waiting for him to do something, but nothing happened. Eventually it turned cold and as she turned away to go inside she mumbled under her breath, “Stupid boat” and just then his mast snapped and crashed into the deck of the boat. She ran to find sanctuary in the condo.
She didn’t sleep that night, wondering if he was still there, too stubborn to look out the window to see. She wondered if she could help him? If he needed her help and if he belonged to someone. Of course he belonged to someone, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t help him. Why was she drawn to him? Surely he didn’t need her or want her, he was there because that’s where he landed. The thoughts swirled in her head until she finally slipped away to dream of things she wouldn’t remember. He was certainly her last thought that night and her first thought when she awoke.
That morning she never looked out the window and wouldn’t dare venture on to the balcony she had come to love. She couldn’t risk him seeing her seeing him. She waited for what felt like forever before finally venturing down to the spot on the beach where she had found him the day before. She strolled casually not wanting to seem excited or like she was searching for him. He was gone. She must have looked panicked as she frantically searched the shoreline, looking back and forth to reference points, trees, the balcony, rocks, until something out in the water caught her eye. The water was calmer today and the wind quiet. She could see clearly for miles out from the shore and caught a glimpse of the snapped mast she’d heard crash behind her yesterday. It was him. Leaving?
Madison stood at the edge of the water not sure what to do. Convinced at one point that he was standing still in the water. As a strong swimmer she thought she could swim to him, climb aboard, but then what would she do. She’d need a better plan than that. Not sure if he was coming or going, or sitting still, she eventually retreated to the balcony.