Small Honest Heroic Acts

Inchworm, will you stop and see the marigolds with me?

April battles back a long hard winter. Not even the crocuses have dared poke their heads through the solid earth. I ache for them. Half buried in my own icy ground, storms of life whip ’round my head.

At the Wantagh boat basin, I park and step from the car, willing the strong breeze from the water to whisk away my melancholy. It threatens my dress Marilyn Monroe-like. On the boardwalk, my heels resound with comforting thunks. Upon the water, glittering golden ripples flow quickly by. I shade my eyes from the glorious sun reflecting off the South Bay.

The water is dark, enshrouding its secrets in floating silt. My brain cannot afford that luxury. My depression has me by the throat, and I must fight. I want to hide, hole up and dissipate, to lie, (“I’m fine!”). All else is just too hard.

There’s a disconnect between my brain and mouth that prevents all confession, but I can text. My fingers still know how to tell the truth, and it’s the truth that’s needed now, no matter how painful, humiliating or scary. I’m not alright, and someone needs to know.

I have a well-knit safety net of professionals, family and friends. But today I’ve fallen through, and my safety net, in this surreal dream that’s become my life, feels like a pack of dogs relentlessly seeking me, chasing me toward dubious solutions…and I’m afraid.

The clunking of my heels is racing now. I slow my pace again, slow my breathing. A sign on the boardwalk reads, “No Fishing or Crabbing”. Another warns the docks are for boat owners only. Were these signs here when I was little and my father marched us to the end of the docks, bamboo poles in hand with round red and white bobbers attached to the line? My brother threaded worms upon his hook, which yielded little. I used marshmallows as bait and caught a bucket full of starfish.

The memory punctuates my solitude. But even if I were with family or friends, this feeling, this consuming, blinding insulation that keeps all love, all happiness at bay, would drown out the moment, rob me of intimacy.

No! This is not why I came here! Suit Up & Show Up! I said to myself this morning. I showered. I put on a dress. I even used non-waterproof mascara—a fervent declaration: I will not cry today!

Along the far bank a wall of small boulders holds back the rising tide; keeps it from swamping the houses above. I will shore up my life against this flood, this depression, this pain, one rock, one prayer, one small, honest, heroic act at a time.

I close my eyes and listen, isolating each sound like I’m seeking through channels on the radio: the white noise of the adjacent parkway, the blowing of the wind, the honking of the geese, the lapping of the waves, a songbird, the metallic thwap of ropes hitting the flagpole.

A honking different from the geese sounds exactly like the squeaker in a dog toy, but it’s coming from a tree, a bird. I can’t see it. I listen for a while, amused.

A woman walks toward me, about 30 years my senior, bone thin. I wonder if she should be out walking alone.

I smile at her.

“What a beautiful day!” she says.

“Do you hear that?” I ask.

“What?”

“That honking.”

“There are geese over there.” She points to a huge flock on a distant lawn.

“No. Up there.” I point. Her hearing is apparently not keen enough to catch the sound. “It’s a different kind of bird,” I say. “I can’t see it.”

She stares a while at the tree. “Would you like me to rush the tree and flush him out for you?” she asks.

I grin. The picture in my head is brain candy. I like her. “No. He sounds happy. Let’s let him squeak.”

She wishes me a good day and trundles off in her grey sweat suit and Keds. Smiling I pull out my cell phone to send one more text, an update to a friend assuring her I’m feeling better. Tossing one imaginary marshmallow to the waves to tantalize the starfish, I amble back to my car, drive past the 15 mph zone and head onto the parkway, back to my fast-paced life determined to build a new foundation of small, honest, heroic acts.

 

Sharon Dockweiler, author of No Buttons for Suzy Cow and the chap book, Whatever Works, has been published in YouandMeMagazine.com, Oberon Literary Magazine, The Suffolk County Poetry Review, and The Bards Annual, among others. She holds the distinction of winning first place in the Princess Ronkonkoma Productions Poetry Contest four years running. She teaches two writing workshops on Zoom. Learn more at SDockWriter.org.