I had never seen the ocean before. I think I had imagined it being somewhat like Ariel's mermaid land, with schools of colorful fish, fields of sparkling coral, and a secret king and castle. It ended up not being exactly how I had imagined it, or even really being the ocean--it was just San Francisco Bay--but to my 4-year-old eyes, it might as well have been the lovely world that I had dreamed. It was blue, it was beautiful, it was big, and I didn't know the difference.
This was the vacation of my short life. Coming from land-locked Utah, this was my first experience with the coast and California, my first time to the land of surf and sun. Everything was new and exciting to my brother, sisters, and me: the bridges, the fog, the boats, the steep roads, and the smooshed houses. And we couldn't wait to get into the water.
We parked our car at the side of the road near the cars of other tourists, and made our way past the rocks down to the sandy shore. A bridge was to our left, spanning the watery vastness, and to our right, the glittering sea leading to infinity. We didn't have the time nor the gear to go swimming but we had a few moments to wade to our heart's content. We eagerly took off our shoes, rolled up our pant legs, and ran into the water.
It was slightly chilly, regardless of it being July, but we splashed and stomped and were generally carefree. The wet sand squished between my toes and the little beach was littered with little shells. It was a great day to be a kid.
Suddenly, the tide came in. A wave too strong pushed and grabbed and knocked me off my feet, tossing me into the greedy water. The ocean's cold kiss filled my mouth and nose, engorging me on the salty sea. Her icy fingers entangled in my hair. Her raspy laugh echoed in my ears. And her hungry arms engulfed my body, tugging me towards her deep. I was caught in the ocean's deadly embrace.
But the tide goes out as quickly as it comes in. After the eternity of a second, the water released me, spitting me out on the muddy sand. The ocean was no longer beautiful. I no longer cared for its bluey hue or its hidden treasures. It had betrayed me, attacked me, and left me crumpled on the beach.
Gasping and sputtering, I did what any 4-year-old would do once I could breathe again: I cried for my mommy.