Dawn Patrol

When I was growing up, before I had a job,

before I could drive, I used to keep my surfboard in my bedroom.

It would have made more sense to keep it in the garage, sure,

but I liked it with all my other things: my Shamrock hat and my hamster,

my broken lava lamp and mis-matched coasters.

It was a longboard, fiberglass, white with two red stripes on it.

I let someone borrow it the summer I went away to college

and haven’t heard from her since. I’ve thought about messaging her

to ask whatever happened to it, but I feel strange reaching out

only to ask about that. Plus, I think she’s married with a kid or two.

My friends would pick me up in their mom’s van before the sun came up –

we would share apples or bananas swiped from the bowl on the counter

and decide which beach to visit first.

There is a silence on the coast in the early morning,

something different than any other time of day.

The waves break in almost a whisper, the sound muted along the sand.

The gulls are quiet, rising and falling from the water without complaint.

By the time we arrive, the far horizon where the ocean meets the sky

is a light blue, cool and pale.

We stumble out, hoodies falling past bathing suites, and check the waves

the wind, the tide, the other surfers bundled against the dawn, watching.

Sometimes we we would check our favorite spots before deciding,

other times the waves would be so clean it didn’t matter.

Seminole on 18th, 34th near my Dad’s office, or 3rd street across from Krystals.

If the waves were really bad, everyone would head to the pier

because if there was really nothing to ride, we could all go to Pita Pit.

After watching, and waiting, and deciding, we would head back to the van

shed our stretched hoodies, grab the boards, and walk towards the water –

pausing to attach leashes and adjust bathing suites,

maybe try a stretch or two.

Boards under our arms, we would wade out into the swirling water

Sometimes green, sometimes gray, sometimes clear blue

I can can steel feel the sand giving way under my toes.

Once the water reached our waists we would leap onto our boards

our feet leaving the ground, not returning for hours.

That first paddle of the morning, in the still silence,

my hands dipping through the salty glass: that was perfection

that feeling of being a part of something that is whole

and complete without any kind of human touch necessary is breathtaking.

It’s what made us get up before dawn and go back, to skip lunch

and push through the hot and the cold, the mushy waves and the clean ones.

Bobbing on the oceans back like a cork on my fiberglass board,

water dripping from the ends of my hair and hands, plinking back

into the vast Atlantic and merging to join the tides again.

It’s the thing about growing up that I miss the most.


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