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Sasha Bailyn

Anatomy of a Wave

Little Girl on the Beach by Hans Olaf Heyerdahl

The wave came, as ocean waves usually do, like a startled exhale, faster than thought. First the suck, sand drying underfoot, then the roll of seaweed, the water showing its underside. I didn’t know I’d gone under until I heard Mom crying, “Thank you!” to the gray-haired man whose arms wrapped around my five-year-old body. His face was sandy, or maybe bearded, eyes watery, or maybe blue. He seemed to have come from the ocean. “Here,” he’d said, placing me, curled like a baby, in Mom’s shaking arms. I sensed that I was sobbing. Or maybe my face was sea salted, breath staccato from cold. Shivers overtook me, making Mom’s grip loosen, and she lowered me to the sand.

The whole beach was watching. It was a gray San Francisco day, so, not a crowd, but enough to feel the stares. I wanted Mom to stop wailing. I wanted her to have been the one to rescue me. Now everyone knew I’d been toppled by the surf, and that my mom hadn’t been watching closely enough—her one day of the month to watch me—and neither had I. Hadn’t stayed on my own two feet. The man looked down at me with those calm, watery eyes and said knowingly, “You’re made of strong stuff, kid.”

Maybe the wave hadn’t been so ordinary, after all.

About the writer:
Sasha Bailyn is an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts and her work is published in The Maine Review, The Bold Italic, and Literary Mama. A former theme park designer and industry journalist, she writes magical realism and memoir and is building a literary community through her author platform.

Image: Little Girl on the Beach by Hans Olaf Heyerdahl (1857-1913). No medium specified. No size specified. By 1913. Public domain.

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