Still as Salt

By Madison Boboltz

Someday I will dip my toes in the water of the sea I once crossed and realize it was never great enough to have drowned either of us.

I held my breath when the angel passed over, terrified I would be stolen away, lost to my people. But safe I was under the blood-stained doorpost, and it was the same faith of those who put it there that also parted the sea, to which they pointed to the next morning and said “let yourself go.”

My doubts ran more rampant than I did. I tell myself now more than I told myself then: it was not I who hardened your heart, and so I will not carry the guilt of having failed to soften it.

“Don’t look back,” they said, “or you’ll turn to a pillar of salt.” How appropriate, I thought as the salty mist braced my senses between the walls of water through which I was led, if that’s true. So, what made me do it?

Was it my inevitably romanticized remembrance of our coming together during a time of famine, when you witnessed some God-intended goodness in me, and I in you?

Was it the painful regret at how later this goodness was forgotten and replaced with confusion? Confusion over whose godness should be validated and whose godlessness be ridiculed. Was it our disagreement over whose needs and desires were sacrificed, or unwilling to be sacrificed, to meet the more-important needs and desires of the other?

Was it my denial of your shrewdness which became gradually apparent?Was it the cold note of sorrow and puzzlement that crossed my face after we had stopped laughing, when you held me responsible for plagues I did not send—suffering which, if anything, I longed to relieve you of?

I looked back because I realized I was doing it again: forgetting to breathe, failing to trust the provisional supply of oxygen that forged the path to my “deliverance.” I stopped, head bowed. Raised my chin to my shoulder. Lifted my eyes.

Blocking me from your view was the pillar of flames, a barrier which had strengthened my resolve to flee. It went out. I couldn’t see much through the smoke, only a hazy glimpse of your attempts at damage control, but I could feel my courage replaced by a deep fear that I should not have left, and I could feel the heat of the fire (fire and misfortune) replaced by the heat of your anger.

It happened like they said. I found that my feet could not move—would not carry me back. The sensation traveled through me. Solid. Stuck. Still I could feel. My eyes, victim to salt already, were last to go. In those final few moments, could they trust what they thought they saw?

You, stumbling toward me, but not at me. You, on a flight of your own, desperate to escape the echoes of voices and accusations which had a habit of actualizing themselves into self-destructive patterns and self-fulfilling prophecies. Why, I wondered, is the water closing in on you before it closes in on them? Given the strides you had made, that didn’t seem right to me. If only, I wished, they were drowned already.

Once I had gotten myself ahead you knew better than to chase me down. You couldn’t see me as a traveling companion worthy of commitment. In fact, you couldn’t really see me at all, looking back as you were. But, still I was, there in your way. Still, trying my hardest to be beautiful, even as every bit of me hardened. You moved on, and you didn’t mean to, perhaps, but you crashed into my frozen figure, which proved still too fragile to stand your advances.

You didn’t mean to… perhaps…but you crashed into me. The walls of water crashed into us. You disappeared. I broke into a million pieces.

Someday I will dip my toes in the water of the sea I once crossed and realize that, though we were lost and broken, though we were swept off our feet, thrown around, and carried away, we each washed up onto separate shores… wildernesses of our own…where we needed to be…neither having committed or suffered an infraction so severe we could not both wander on.

I emerged myself again. I can tell that some parts of me are left behind in their crystalline form, disintegrated and dissolved, but they remain there now to ensure that the next pair of souls who find themselves in times of trouble fall a little more slowly.

Someday. Someday I will return to this sea (and various others I’m sure) blessing those parts of me. For now, there is a land I’ve promised myself and God I will find. I can’t see it yet, but someday. And on some days, driven by doubt, regret, disappointment—or no, driven by grace that, despite its tendency to make me feel pathetic and foolish, helps me realize, even now, how the sea has calmed—I pray you find yours.

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