Some nights at home in Los Angeles, he would wake up having been dreaming of diving into the waters of Korčula. We were surrounded by traffic and construction and the constant sounds of cars driving by, but at night he would escape to Korčula Island, where he had spent many childhood summers. . I’ve never known a place to hold such a strong grip on someone. He talked about these summers like it was where his heart discovered joy. Mostly he talked about the water: the calm, clear, warm water. The water that was clean and refreshing and seemed to almost have healing powers. The water that he learned how to windsurf on as a boy, feeling the wind and racing through the waves, his boyish frame growing stronger every year as he learned this skill. He told stories of this place, laughing and reminiscing, and almost crying with homesickness of this island. And he always told me we would make it here someday. And finally here we are.
We were standing at the water’s edge and he was looking at the water, and I watched him delicately step closer to its edge. He kept looking at it but not getting in. It was like the water was a wild animal and he was afraid to get close as he might scare it away. He needed to romance it, needed to know that he meant it no harm. I think he needed it to recognize him first, to invite him. It was as if his soul was saying, “It’s me, remember? I came back for you”. Finally the sea and he were ready. He dove in head down and swam. He kept swimming and swimming and I thought he might never turn and stop. I could almost feel his soul being released to fly free. Finally he stopped and turned over and floated on his back, the water so clear around him, the tiny ripples creating the perfect bed. The sound of the water must bring back so many memories, the smell of the salt and the trees, and the sound of the church bell in the distance. This was his home.
Meanwhile, I sat on the shore, which was more of a rocky slope that artfully descended into the sea. Though I tried to capture the feeling that he had, I was at a loss. He sang cheerfully in Italian as I rearranged myself on the rocky ground, trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable, jagged edges poking me. He swam the backstroke like a native while I spit out salty water and shivered from the chill. He was at home, and I was …along for the ride. I will probably never connect with this place like he will. Possibly because I was never here as a child. There is something about childhood experiences that take root in you, that become a part of your story and hold charm and energy and a sliver of your youth. You just can’t see a place the same way if you see it first through adult eyes. I can try, and I am, and I can appreciate, and I do, and I can see him revel in this happiness, and that will have to be enough for me now.