When Marielle was seven, she visited her mother in The Philippines, in a group of islands called Cebu. The house was on the beach, and she could see the ocean from the upstairs. There were no windowsills, just wide holes displaying the water. Crabs and shells, relics of tides, were her playthings. She bathed in a well, swam in the waves, and in her memory the home was almost an extension of the sea.
As a child, she sometimes felt anxious before it rained, a low rumbling in her stomach, but then relief pattered down with the drops. She felt release as the clouds did, as if they’d all been holding their breath waiting for a clean, new world. She’d often sit out in a car by herself to watch the rain. It formed a curtain all around her, hemming her in. The storm would swell and ebb like her breath, quiet in the front seat.
She didn’t know water would be something to fear until later in life, when several women who loved her started warning do not go out too far, be careful in that boat, go inside now.
On Rock Island a few years ago, the water drew her in so she went out. She wasn’t really swimming, but bobbing along, when the waves whipped up, relentless and powerful. She toppled headfirst onto craggy rocks. Tumbling, she thought about how much she’d always loved the water and now there was a real chance she’d drown. But then the waves delivered her to her knees, sand on skin. Slowly, she crawled all the way back to shore.