The highway to Chad’s is straight and long. It’s nighttime. My head still hurts and I’m uncomfortable alone. Since the concussion, I feel lost without the context of another person. I don’t trust my thoughts. Everything is confusing.
Beside the highway, I see a train stopped. The tiny windows glow golden, illuminating the shiny metal surface of the train car. There are little faces inside. It fades out of my line of sight as if in slow motion and I start to cry. I can’t explain it. But I’m sobbing as if everyone I love is on that train as it drifts into the distance behind me. I have forty minutes to go.
I arrive safely with the feeling that I’ve been delivered via auto-pilot. Chad meets me in the parking lot and carries my surfboard inside. It’s warm and it smells nice in his condo. I feel safe again. The forecast for tomorrow looks good.
“You don’t look good. You look kinda pale.” he says.
I wake up in the morning to Chad hovering over me, nudging me gently. He’s dressed and ready. It’s time to go. The bed is so warm that it makes the thought of jumping into a cold ocean seem that much more impossible. It feels as though my heart has been relocated to my forehead, it beats there, torturing me. I extract myself from the warmth of the bed to get dressed. It’s hard, though. I am not stoked. I am not even awake.
Chad packs and loads the car. I fold myself into the passenger seat. The ride to the break is long and foreign to me. I drink a latte and listen to lyrics as though they were a soundtrack composed just for me in this moment. Everything is surreal. But when I open the car door at the beach, the crisp air and the roar of the sea rush in and flip a switch in my brain. I am awake. I’m ready for this.
I’m comforted by the ritual of changing into my wetsuit and waxing my board. Chad has never surfed in the Winter. The routine is novel to him. This comforts me, too, for some reason.
We emerge from the lot onto the beach. Everything is shades of gray, it’s as if we’ve been photoshopped in. There is practically no one out. It looks good, too. The water isn’t as cold or uncomfortable as I dreamed it from bed. It never is. It feels good. There is nothing to be confused about out here. The waves approach like friendly animals rising up out of the deep, beckoning me to charge. Chad stays close. I like the way he looks there next to me. I want him to catch a wave almost as badly as I want one myself— almost. While we’re out, I feel strong. I feel like myself.
Right now, I do not feel like myself. My head hurts and nothing seems right. I want to go back.
But that’s the thing, though, isn’t it? You can never go back. Only forward. Conditions always change. You can’t hold on to yesterday or bank on tomorrow’s forecast. You have to accept what is happening right now and have the courage to confront it in whatever way is necessary—Even if it’s a huge pain in the ass (or head, as the case may be). Sometimes, I’m learning, confronting it means not doing anything (which can be the hardest action of all).