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A time to remember
By: G Wayne
Copyright © 10/01/07
I remember seeing grownups smile as they passed the innocent children playing. They had no idea what was really going on.

"We don't like you. Nobody likes YOU!" One girl said as I wondered why this was happening to me.

"Ya, you're fat and you're stupid!" another little boy chimed in. Soon, the whole group was focused, enjoying the feeling of superiority at my expense. As I sadly trudged away, the laughter was slow to quell.

I walked up the street to where the construction of a new group of tract homes was going on. Some of the homes were no more than slabs of cement nestled in the earth. Others were pine skeletons, standing proud and straight, waiting to be clothed in garments of stucco and wood. I noticed a motorcycle parked in the dirt in front of one of those works in progress. I had never seen a motorcycle before then and I wanted to go closer but those foreboding voices that were warnings from the past, held me at bay. "The workmen are mean and they hate children. They will call the police to take you away." I didn't want the police to take me away, but the motorcycle was all shiny chrome with bright red paint. I hoped that if I kept to the sidewalk, they would leave me alone. I just wanted to see what a motorcycle looked like in real life.

I slowly walked down the sidewalk watching men on scaffolds pounding nails into wood and bricklayers deftly applying mortar with their trowels, but the motorcycle twinkled in the sun like a Christmas tree. I remember thinking how big it was, the tires looked as big as the ones on my dad's car. I was only seven at the time and being just a little shit, things somehow looked bigger than they were. My mouth hung open as I gazed at the jewel studded black leather saddlebags with fringe hanging down from their tops like black icicles.

"I see you like my motorcycle?"

My eyes shot up to see a man in a grimy t-shirt with sweat glistening on his face and patches of gray cement that had dried on his sunburned arms. Fear that I was in big trouble shot through me like an electric shock. He was going to call the cops and they would take me away.
"You okay son?" he questioned with a friendly smile.

"I'm okay," I answered although I wasn't. "That sure is a nice motorcycle mister," I managed to get out.

"It sure is, kid. That there is a Harley-Davidson, the best motorcycle ever made!" His smile broadened and what I saw as happiness I would later understand to be unbridled pride.

"What do you do if it rains?" I asked and as his jaw dropped, my insecurity returned. Then he began to laugh so loud that his coworkers broke their concentration long enough to see what was going on.

"You're pretty smart for a little guy," he said, still smiling. "If it rains I just ride it out-and maybe I don't have to spend as much time in the shower when I get home."

We got to be friends over time and if he had a spare moment, he would talk to me when I came by. It was then I began to realize that there was joy to be found in an individual search for adventure and the things that frightened other people were sometimes quite rewarding.

This flashed through my mind as I watched breaking waves reach out toward cottony puffs of cumulus clouds that floated in a cornflower blue sky. The foaming brine pushed forward, its cold liquid fingers sent a chill through my toes. The water eroded the sand from under my feet as it scurried back to the sea, testing my balance as I sank into the sand. This cycle would repeat over and over again, but never exactly the same.

Once again, I stood facing the sea fully clad in my scuba gear. I was ready to enter my private world of adventure. I checked my equipment one last time and then started counting the waves, looking for a pattern, trying to predict when a lull would allow me to slip behind the breakers with as little trouble as possible. With my fins in hand and my regulator in my mouth, I took off at a brisk walk, working my way as far out as possible. When the water got too deep and I could no longer touch the bottom, I quickly put my fins on. I had only a short time to do this or I would drift back in front of the waves and then be pounded by the surf. The powerful assist that my fins provided, quickly propelled me away and into less turbulent waters. Off I went, deeper into my briny sanctuary that has never failed to please, although pleasing could not begin to describe what I was about to experience.

I nimbly worked my way through the swells, quickly traveling farther and farther away from the shore. When land was a long way off in the distance, I stopped to enjoy my surroundings. I began to smile at how lucky I was just to be there in that beautiful place. While preparing to submerge and start my dive, I noticed what appeared to be a submarine far off in the distance. I slid from the swell that gave me vantage, but when I arose on the next one, the object was gone. I noticed two people in a kayak at about the same place as my unidentified floating object and to my bewilderment; they showed no signs of reacting to anything out of the ordinary. Watching intently as I topped one swell after another, there was nothing to see; no boats, no ships and no submarines, just the two people in the kayak.

Before having time to deal with thoughts of having hallucinations, the water in front of me began to roil in a strange manner. At that moment, within an arm's reach, a humpback whale slowly broke the surface. Things began to move in slow motion, or perhaps it was my brain working faster, trying to record every detail of what was happening. I was instantly overwhelmed by the giant eye that stared at me as it passed. A myriad of emotions exploded in my head. I felt awe at being in the presence of this majestic creature. It was only inches away, close enough to see the barnacles that had attached themselves to the animal's skin. A feeling of insignificance arose within me at the realization of how small I was compared to this enormous creature and that I had no control over what it might do to me. I knew that the slightest swish of its giant tail could easily crush my body and kill me in an instant. Although I was frozen in an enraptured state, I was able to force my arm to reach out and actually feel the whale's slick, rubbery skin. This caused the encounter to become acutely intimate and increase in intensity.

I am no stranger to animals and I know that their emotions can be sensed, so I tried to become as mentally quiet as possible and just tune in. To my astonishment, I found that I could feel the whale's emotion. It reminded me of an old friend that was happy to see me. The whale seemed to radiate cheerfulness and contentment, pleased to be making contact with a human. It was as if it was saying, "Hi neighbor! Just stopped by to see how you're doing." It may seem to the reader, at this point, that I am over dramatizing the situation, but this is a true account of what transpired on that day.

The idea that I was actually bonding with a whale in the whale's environment brought on a new fervor of sensations. How could I possibly be so lucky, so blessed as to be able to experience something this magnificent? I watched spellbound as this creature that weighed over forty tons gracefully submerged leaving no wake, a veritable Nijinsky of the sea. There was its tale, those mighty twin flukes lifted high above the water as it submerged . . . and it was gone.
I considered submerging and continuing with my dive, but I knew that any further activity could only detract from what I was feeling at that moment, so I floated on the swells for a long while, reliving every detail of what I had just experienced. I wanted to make sure that I did not forget a single detail of what had just transpired. I wanted to keep the event crystal clear for the rest of my life. I realized that my friend the sea had just provided me with an experience so great and so special, that thinking about it would warm my heart on my saddest and darkest days. I tried to be as humble as possible as I looked up to the heavens and with a wide grin nodded thank you!

It must have been an hour before reality set in as I noticed the sun moving in on the ocean and offering its goodnight kiss. As I slowly started to move back toward shore, still filled with the splendor of what had transpired, I became excited at the thought of sharing this remarkable adventure. How great it would be if I could somehow get others to feel the emotions that I had just experienced. If only my words could conjure in your imagination what it was like at that time.

The method I used to exit the ocean and get through the waves was to submerge behind the breakers and crawl in on the sand. When the waves were coming in, I would let the current push me forward. When the current was receding back to the sea, I would dig in to the sand and hold my position.