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  • Every part of me craved the sea.

    In the evenings, when I’d return home, my mouth only watered for miso, with the added satisfaction of Old Bay Seasoning, to spread salt through my veins. While running errands, I came upon a closing gallery, emptying their contents onto the sidewalks with free, discarded remnants from past exhibits. The only poster I cared to unfurl and tuck under my arm was that of dark painted waves carrying a tall sailing ship. Everyday, after running my fingertips through trinkets strewn across the top of my bookshelf, I’d, without fail, choose a small necklace with a gold-painted shell hanging from it, that I had found one summer, at home in Maine. But, reluctantly/recently, I shipwrecked myself in a desert of anxiety, thwarted by obligatory mirages and confusion-a traveler who hadn’t yet realized they were making the map. And all at the dead center of a peninsula surrounded by the ocean and endless ports to other states of mind.

    Jellyfish remain in still waters, waiting for the tide to rise, monitoring salinity, so that they can pump and dive into the saltiest patches.

    On the first full moon of the new year–at a time when sun, moon and earth are in alignment, causing the tides to rise and fall in extremes–I stretched out of my paralysis, started awaking from a dry stupor and headed West towards the ocean.

    Jellyfish are brainless. Their nervous system is stretched in webbing over every surface of their slippery body, embedded in the epidermis. Any reaction to the changing tides, the looming body of a predatory leather-back turtle or the brush of plankton, is felt through this nerve net.

    When we arrived, without a blanket, blinded by a sun often cloaked in fog, we walked down the graffiti-ed ramp, past clusters of people already starting small bonfires, couples sipping glass bottles and huddled close, wanderers staring aimlessly at their dogs running down the coastline. I guess the gravitational pull of the moon was so strong that we couldn’t sit still. I had to drift towards the break, the wet sand, the large seaweed bath I wish I could sink my whole head into until my skull clenched with cold. I noticed a constellation of bubbles littered at my feet, but I kept looking at the horizon, wondering where the huge tanker that emerged from under the Golden Gate Bridge was headed exactly. Where was I drifting to?

    Paul was crouched over the bloom of bubbles a few feet away. Prodding his finger gently at their centers, where a tiny pink nervous system was subtly contracting. Tentacles, like short vermicelli, formed a skirt at the bottom of these tiny creatures. We couldn’t quite tell if they were alive, or beached to their own deaths. Perhaps, they too, were confused by the tides' pull and push on their nervous system, as it had strained and unsettled my own.

    As I warned Paul to be gentle with these small jellies, afraid that a rogue tentacle would slap at his cuticles, I recalled a moment in South Africa, when I had been on a road trip along the Garden Route. My friend and I had stopped off to satisfy a similar craving to the one I felt now, the need to touch the ocean that kept rising into the rear view mirror. When I had approached the beach, huge iridescent domes were spread along the sloping beach. The beached jellyfish seem to radiant every color that the waves near them were reflecting, and we noticed a strange vibration at their edges. Hundreds of pointy-shelled baby snails, minutes after being born a few feet away, inching towards the dead jellies for a feast.

    As Paul began turning one around in his palm, cleaning off the sand to inspect the insides more closely, a little girl ran to us to announce that the creatures liked being thrown back into the ocean. She was the only one for miles in a bathing suit, so I trusted her instinct (those ready for any opportunity to immerse themselves in water are in touch with both their inner and outer world, so consciously that they must be in tune with the tides).

    Although I has suspicions that the jellies had come to their death under the full moon’s frantic signals, I picked one up myself and walked into the ocean, tossing it in the break of a wave. I can’t help think that we’re all just looking to return to the salt water to ease our nerves.
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