"It Scares and Excites Me."

The night that lightning shook the house we decided to give up on Seagrove night life and walk the beach at midnight. The air was still warm enough for shorts and we stayed close to the waves, unaware of the white crabs scuttling past our feet until we turned on our flashlights. My sister and Kevin shared a cigar while I stared at the sky and wondered if we would meet anyone new tonight. The stars and moon were remarkably bright.

A mile or so down the shoreline we met Gian, Andrew, and Sean, from St. Louis. They were playing a drinking game they invented where you speak the words to a song without the melody while the others try to name the song. We all bonded over a shared appreciation for Radiohead and old school hip hop. We found a lifeguard tower and climbed the ladder, where our party soon grew to ten of us standing on a small metal platform and sharing where we were from. A drunk girl named Olivia kept getting everyone's names wrong. Turns out the two parties we met were both from St. Louis and they began to hug each other while they talked about their home town.

Gian, a recent college graduate and soon-to-be accountant kept touching my arm, and I determined it wasn't by accident. Maybe he liked how I guessed his name was short for Gianni, or the fact that I knew every rap song he brought to the game. Feeling somewhat claustrophobic, I climbed down from the tower without saying a word and ran toward the waves as soon as my feet touched the sand.

It felt spectacular. The humid air giving way to cool, and the quiet waves folding into each other. I stopped at the water's edge, a little afraid of what I couldn't see. I took deep breaths and felt delightfully small in the salty black; so small that tears formed in the corners of my eyes.

Every time a wave rolled in I was tempted to jump backward. Who knows what the ocean carries even in the shallows? But then, it seemed worth it to let the foam touch my toes. 

It felt spectacular. The humid air giving way to cool, and the quiet waves folding into each other. I stopped at the water’s edge, a little afraid of what I couldn’t see.

***

Gian was soon by my side. "Hey, are you okay?" 

"Yeah, I'm good."

"Are you sure?" he asked again. He probably wondered if I wanted him to follow me.

"Yes, I just wanted some fresh air," I replied.

"Do you want to be alone?" 

"It's okay." I said, still looking out toward the waves. I didn't want to small talk anymore. I nudged his shoulder and told him to look out toward the ocean with me, so that he'd stop trying so hard. 

"I love how mysterious the ocean feels," Gian said. "There's so much that you can't see."

"Yes, exactly," I said. "It's crazy to look out and wonder about everything alive out there below the surface."

"Does it scare you, or do you find it exciting?" he asked. 

"Both," I replied.

"Me too," Gian said.

***

I think he imagined this would be a great moment for a kiss. He put his arm around me and pulled me close. I gave it a few seconds and then pulled back from his hold.

"You're cute and all, but I don't know you," I said.

He received the correction but instead of responding he began to talk about the sky.

"You never really see the stars and the clouds at the same time," he said. He had a point. The night looked like a fantasy. We stared up at the stars blinking between clouds that even now were soft and bright. 

My sister, jogging from the bonfire near the tower, disrupted our moment to tell us it was beginning to rain. We could hardly feel the drops but you could smell it in the air and if you looked out toward the horizon, a storm was surely coming. Our new friends wanted to stay out, supposing it would pass, but they were not from Florida. We headed back to our bikes, walking quickly as the rain grew stronger, and arriving at home just after 2am. 

***

"Let's sneak into the pool," Aubrey suggested, always full of great ideas.

"Let's do it." I grabbed my bright yellow tube and we ran across the street to the pool that closed at midnight, slipping quietly beneath the blue water glowing from the lights below. Kevin did a cannonball and Aubrey shook her head.

"Sorry, I forgot we were being quiet," he said.

The rain began to pour down so hard that the pool looked like it was alive. I was floating with my eyes closed, just beginning to get cold from the rain even though the air was warm. When I opened my eyes, I saw lightning in the distance behind the trees. 

"You guys--lightning!" I said. I wasn't thinking about danger. I just thought it was cool.

"You just saw lightning?" Aubrey asked. 

"Yes."

"We should get out the pool right now," she said, always the reasonable one.

Kevin and Aubrey were out of the water within 10 seconds and then Kevin dragged me gracelessly off my tube and onto solid ground. We ran toward the house, completely soaked, and I tiptoed into the kitchen, leaving a trail of wet footprints to the fridge to make three mimosas we could drink on the porch. 

By now the air was absolutely electric. Our hairs stood on end and we lit sparklers just for fun, still in our swimsuits and loving the sound of the rain. We could feel the thunder in our blood when it rumbled from the distance, but we couldn't have prepared for the lightning. When it struck just seconds later, it seemed that the walls might break away from the house. My sister ran toward the door and I found myself crouched against the wall beside a chair. Our hearts were pounding, as if the lightning was inside us now.

By now the air was absolutely electric. Our hairs stood on end and we lit sparklers just for fun, still in our swimsuits and loving the sound of the rain.

A few minutes later it struck again. So loud we thought the whole house would wake up and the baby would cry, but instead all we heard was the rain. The energy of the crack seemed to carbonate the air and wash over the ground like a wave.

"I'm not staying out here for this," my sister said. Kevin was laughing at us but followed Aubrey inside. I was scared too, trying to remember the rule about counting the seconds between the sound of thunder and sight of lightning. But it was too powerful to hide from, so I stayed outside, awake. I wanted to feel it. 

Karlee PattonComment