Catherine Martin Literary Award Winners 2018

The Wind and the Ocean that Follows by Sophie Monkley

16-18yo Category Winner

The ocean has always fascinated me. How can it be calm yet rough; agitated but relaxed; irresolute yet determined? How can the assured surface disguise a current that could sweep you to depths that you did not know existed?

Goodbye.

But can I ever really let you go?

Death.

Pass.

Leave.

End.

Depart.

Gone.

Different words; same ability to deepen the unhealed wounds that ensnare my mind, my body, my soul.

Gone.

Gone.

Gone.

Forever.

Gone.

Why was it you?

The boat rocks solemnly on the steady ocean as the seagull’s call erupts into music, reminding me that I am not alone. The wind flutters my hair to the steady rhythm of the turquoise waves turning white against the wooden boat and the sun pours down its torrential rays flooding the air with warmth.

Beautiful.

Awaiting.

Shadowy clouds tiptoe on silent waters; tendrils of black smothering the East in their bleak misery. A storm brews as the seagull cries its lonely words into the distance.

Dark.

The final puzzle piece placed amongst a singular shade of black; a seemingly impossible game conquering the sky. A starless night.

Anxious.

The boat is smaller than I remember. Ripples founded by a single pebble threaten to revoke all stability.

Lost.

In a sea of black, the ocean call becomes wilder. Whispers of venomous waves are reborn into howls of untamed beasts as forgotten nightmares are mined from silent rocks hidden below the shattered glass surface.

Frightened.

The waves dance their raging jig to the creak of the distressed vessel as the weak expanses surrender to the undeniable truth.

Cold.

Teasing water trickles in slowly at first. With realisation, it comes all at once.

Pain.

Shattered splinters gouge wicked holes in my heart. The boat remains no longer. Fractions of hope and joy yield to the rampant current.

Alone.

Merciless waves enslave me in a corner of helplessness. An attack to kill. A fight to pull me under; swallow all my broken pieces. Only one winner will prevail.

Drowning.

Everything is silent, calm, simple. So different from what lies above the surface. Ignorance of the hushed current that hauls me to inescapable depths.

Strength.

My hands contest the flow to grasp something forgotten within the current. I cling to the wreckage; memories embedded in my heart like the grain implanted in the wood. The surface welcomes me with gulps of air I did not know I needed.

Floating.

Waves constructed from bricks of anger and loss leave me drenched in droplets of defeat. Agony and distress rise overhead with no time to breathe in between the waves.

Floating.

Remnants of the boat crowd around me like birds fighting for a piece of torn bread. I risk my volatile stability to obtain a new fraction. Some are easy to grasp whilst others require more strength. Some reopen deep gouges whilst others make floating just that little bit easier.

Floating.

For now, just floating.

Now the waves come and go with the turning of the tide. While they still come, they are smaller, further apart than before. I can breathe. Every day I build up the courage to put my feet down, see if I can touch the bottom. I never knew how far away I was until my toes sent up plumes of sand like smoke signals wishing me further into shore. I was not brave enough then, but I am now. The waves guide me to the shore. They guide me to living again.

The seashore greets me like an old friend. With warm sand and comforting words. I realise that to move on is not to forget, but to have the strength to continue to love without pain. Anyway, there would be no possible way of forgetting you.

Birthdays bring tsunamis. I see those coming, anniversaries, but nothing really prepares me for the height the waves will reach before they come crashing down. As each one rushes by like leaves caught in a strong wind, I learn that the waves will wash over. Whilst I cannot breathe for that time, I know that a new day comes with a change in wind that will settle the wildest of oceans.

Sometimes the waves surprise me. No warning. They are always the hardest. Closed wounds reopen and scars reform. Though the scars are not pretty, they give evidence to my love. They show that I can live and love deeply. They show that I can heal from cuts and gouges that were once so raw.

Now I go to the beach. Waves role in confidently as squealing children make huts out of driftwood; the individual grains telling a different story, holding another memory. I think of life’s likeness to the ocean. How the stillness contrasts a ruggedness that can change a boats course forever, but no matter its complexity, it is always, in the end beautiful.

She was like the ocean, Emily, completely and utterly life changing.

I float and the seagull cries its song, reminding me that I was never alone.

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