Tides

Something is wrong. I wake up in the night with sharp, shooting pains in my stomach and spend the next 2 days on a mattress surrounded by onlookers to my public illness. I don’t care – I’m deliriously sick. I can’t keep anything down, even water makes me violently ill. God, Universe, Something (Italian doctor in Nosy Be) – please make me well again. A remote island isn’t an ideal place to be ill, and the only way to get treated is a nauseous, choppy boat ride to the next biggest island – Nosy Be. Take off your shoes, lay on the cool tile floor in what appears to be a hospital, and enter when you are called in for a blood test. My sickness has a name: Typhoid.

After writhing on my sickbed for 2 days, I’m anxious to get out, to move (being inactive is not one of my life skills). The nearest village on the island is Ampang, a 20-40 minute walk, depending on the tides. I venture out the minute I start to feel rejuvenated, and edge out on the giant rocks at the perimeter of the water, the only path to town. I make it over halfway and realize I’m in a bind – the high tide has made the rocks I’ve crossed a dozen times impassable. The thrashing water crushes against the rocks, leaving me clinging to the side of a boulder, unsure of my next step. I frantically cling to the wet rocks, my rubber sandals slippery and unstable cautiously step up to the nearest path, to safety. Frustrated and soaked I lay on the damp grass and admit defeat. The only way to get to the village is swim in the high tide, so reluctantly I retreat back to rest.

The next day I wake up feeling even better, my appetite has returned along with my sense of humor. I look out at the beautiful ocean and am taken aback by the low tide, revealing the rippled sand of the bottom of the ocean. Trying again for town, I walk along the rocky sand, sand that is usually covered with feet of water, and leisurely stroll to town. Mesmerized at how different everything is with the changing of the tides, I look out at the waters edge 20 feet further then it was last time I saw it. Crabs crawl across my bare feet as I crunch rocks on the sea floor, tiny lizards dart to avoid my dangerous steps. I walk over shells and reeds that will soon be overcome again by the powerful ocean. The usual climb on the rocks is now a walk on the beach – quite literally.

Just yesterday I felt so bad I thought I might die, as if I’d never feel better again (dramatic, I know). Just yesterday this path was impassable – I was trapped, stuck on the rocks and forced to retreat. I look down at the ripples in the wet, clay sand and laugh to myself. I laugh at the bottom of the ocean that was invisible to me yesterday, the rough waters far away from me now that forced me to retreat and surrender. How quickly things change. In one day everything is different. Just when I think I know, things change and I don’t know. Just when I think my feelings will never change, something shifts and I remember my feelings always change. Everything changes, just like the tides.

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