Winner: Ocean’s Embrace

I’d almost never been more than knee deep in the ocean.



I met her thirty years ago. The sky blushed pink at our first encounter and her waves

shyly lapped at my feet. A six-year-old me felt her heart flutter. I promised her I would come

back again.

My second encounter with the ocean was a year later. I ran to meet her, but I was dragged

in by her waves; she was furious that I hadn’t come sooner. I begged for air and forgiveness as I

struggled to keep up with her tempestuous tide before I realized that she did not forgive. Our

mutual feelings of betrayal that day stung more than my mother’s nails digging into my salty

skin as she pulled me to shore.

Since I was still unable to stay away, I decided to love her conditionally, allowing us to

touch but never without my feet firmly planted in the wet sand. She splashed around my legs,

comforting, playful, placid, violent—succumbing only in accordance with her own whims.



Those that dared to give up their autonomy to her, she treated equally: indifferent to their

wills, loyal to her own. Although I felt her waves comfort me when I was down, frisk around my

legs when I was lonely, and crash against me when I needed to be reminded of my strength, I

knew that her demeanor would change if my feet faltered, even for a second. Despite the lure of

her seductive scent, her deceptive serenity could not fool me. I knew that her maternal embrace

could morph into the maw of Leviathan in the blink of an eye; I refused to fall again.

Frustrated by my unyielding response, she bided her time, turning her attention to my

child instead. She caressed his smooth skin as she had caressed mine, and helped him grow as

she had helped me until he trusted her more than he trusted me. Ignoring my warning, he allowed

her to draw him into her little by little, until one day he couldn’t find a way out. Her relentless

waves swallowed him whole without hesitation, pausing only to spit the shell that he had once

inhabited back onto the shore, reveling in what she had stolen from me.

It’s been a month since then, and I am finally ready to concede to her victory. I dive into

the ocean, my head above water but my feet touching nothing. Is the sky blood red, or is it just

my vision?

I scream.

She laughs maniacally, while the rest of the world watches in silence. The blaring sky is

once again our clandestine witness as I finally let her pull me down under. As the cold water

stings me on the outside and burns me on the inside, as my body spasms involuntarily in

response to this novel collision of familiar sensations, I feel her embrace turn gentle, pulling me

down into darker waters, triumphant, welcoming, absolute.


Art Credit: Winslow Homer

Author: Ritu Kurien, Dubai
Find her @nosferitu

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