When I was fourteen, I saw the sea. I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been convinced that I was approaching my last breath.
My Dad had lived with his sister ever since he was released from the hospital after being shot by his lover’s husband. His visits were wrapped in disagreement between him and my mother. I grew sad and fearful.
I took to consulting a Ouija board. It spelled out words I didn’t know. We spoke to souls of the dead – one hanged for stealing a chicken. It was an appealing diversion for sheltered country kids.
When my father decided to take my brother and me to Maine on our first-ever vacation, I was ecstatic—the sea. My mother bought us new clothes, normally a once-a-year occurrence.
Before we were to leave, the Ouija board spelled out that if I left Massachusetts in the next month, I would perish. “Doesn’t perish mean die?” I asked.
Suddenly the trip was a death sentence. But it would be unthinkable to even tell my father, never mind cancel.
I felt like a person on death row. The world was at once sweeter and sadder. I said goodbye to my mother and my horse. I wore my seat belt without being told. I awaited my impending death.
We had not yet seen the sea before we crossed the border to New Hampshire. I was sure I would die without having seen it, but the border fell behind us and I still drew breath.
Then it came into view—the vast, the limitless, sea. I breathed easier, surely this could not be the last time I would see it. Somehow I came to believe it wouldn’t be. Little by little, I relaxed.
It indeed wasn’t my last time.