My father used to tell me I was a son of the storm, born with the sound of thunder in my blood.
My mother told me I was a son of the sea, the first breath coating my lungs with its salt.
I say I am both.
Ocean storms are electricity under my skin, wind in my hair, crashing waves against my heartbeat. The sea is tides pulling at my soul, sand and pebbles beneath my feet, the smell of brine and sand and fish in my chest.
I walk the beach in the rise of morning, still bleary-eyed from rolling out of bed. The tides are low and soft, waking me slowly with its murmuring. The sky is blue and pink and gold, and in the growing light I search the ground at my feet.
I look for shimmering rocks, for lost sea glass, for shells that softly sing. They wash up onto the shore with the sadness of the ocean’s depths, the longing of the tides, the wishes of the stars. When I pick them up they cling to me, whispering their stories, raw and stumbling and rushed together because they’ve held it all in for so long without a soul to listen.
The waves bring them to me, gently nudging them to my shore. It knows I will find them and take care of them. It’s known since I was a child, when a shell slipped from its grasp and found its way to my small sand-covered hands. I’d sat with it cradled in my hands as I listened to its story, letting the waves lap at my feet like a worried mother.
I stayed there until everything was said, and then a little longer, sitting in silence before letting the restless ocean take it back.
I suppose the water saw my care, or perhaps the shell begged to go back, but I found it on the beach again the next morning. The waves have delivered them ever since.
Today it is a scattering of sea glass and a shimmering rock the color of kelp. They’re a chattering bunch, and I swear the sea shares a forbearing smile with me.
I carry them to my beach house and set them on my windowsill, where the sun will warm them and make them shine. The wind chimes outside give them lighthearted music to learn, and the muffled sound of the endless sea lulls us all to sleep at night.
Every rock, shell, glass, and pearl have a place inside, lining my windows and shelves, the little ones clinging to each other as they fill vases and jars. The new ones will still speak in rushed sentences and hurried words, but the ones that have stayed, the ones who have settled here for a long time, they know they have time. They know I will listen. The stories they tell are unhurried and old and whispered from deep, deep inside.
I am a son of the stormy sea. My hair is stiff with salt, my hands are rough with sand, and my home is full of the depths of the ocean. I know its secrets, and it knows mine, for there are some shells that ask to return to the water.
And with them, they carry stories of me.