THE SEA – TRADITIONS IN A BOTTLE (Short Story)
The swirling activity in the glass had now settled. The last grains of sand, that had escaped the plastic bottle, lay on the bottom while pale particles hovered in the rest of the cloudy water.
It had only been two days since he returned from the coast. In that time, he hadn’t opened the bottle. In fact, he had forgotten about it altogether. He had even forgotten why he had walked barefoot into the low waves that day, jeans rolled up over his ankles, and feeling slightly awkward. The fact that there were about eight other people performing a similar task didn't make it any less odd for him.
He had remembered the bottle five minutes ago. So here he was. He sat alone at the kitchen counter, leaning in on the glass.
His fingers tapped the countertop apprehensively.
He looked over at the large container holding the remainder of that day’s takings. An inch of beach sand lay dark and solid looking on the bottom. He picked up the bottle and gave it a thorough thrashing about. The liquid instantly turned a murky beige. He put it back on the counter and watched the sand begin to separate and settle. A thin foam had formed on the surface like a fine scum. He glanced at the glass of water in front of him and felt his stomach lurch.
“Taste the goodness of the ocean,” he thought to himself.
He watched the bubbles in the bottle dissipate. His nausea subsided. The sand was still once again.
He remembered the change his feet had felt as he had crossed from the warm, dry sand to the cool, firm wetness where the waves crept up the beach.
The day had been overcast, but the air was warm and salty. He was doing this out of tradition more than anything. Not that he tended to go with tradition in is everyday life. What can you do? Instead, he had processed the logics of it – the rational reasons.
Like a mantra he had mumbled information to himself as he stooped over when the first small wave brushed over his feet. “We came from these salty seas. We can assimilate its nutrient-rich waters.”
Doing this a few times he had noticed some approving glances from those engaged in their own traditions. He realized he might have looked like he was praying rather than regurgitating Googled facts. Each to their own.
“Microorganisms. Amino acids. Antibacterial,” he’d continued, trying not to move his lips this time.
A young boy then emerged from the waves, panting and taking bounding leaps in order to make it out of the waist-high water. His pace had slowed once he could drag his feet through the shallows. He had stopped to catch his breath, hands on hips, looking back triumphantly at the crashing waves. Lifting his one hand to his nose, he had given a remarkably audible blast and flicked the mucous into the water. Turning back to the beach, he had wiped his hand on his orange boardshorts, giving the man holding the bottle of seawater a quick thumbs up and jogged away.
He held back the rising taste of bile in his throat and picked up the glass.
He took a few gulps of the salty liquid, almost catching the sandy detritus on the bottom.
Placing the glass firmly down, he caught his breath and noticed the taste and feeling flushing over his face, throat and abdomen.
A moment later he was rushing for the toilet.