In the Bay by Oona Haskovek

It was definitely not what I was expecting when I applied for the program back at the start of 2021, but that by no means, signifies that I didn’t enjoy every bit of it.

The name “Aquatic Park” was not familiar to me, even though I’d seen it dozens of times. The waterfront steps that ever so slightly had the smell of the nearby Ghirardelli Square wafting across the sandy shore. Adding some type of warmth to the area against the harsh, salty, ocean chill, not physically raising the temperature, but giving you the feeling of sitting by the crackling bittersweet flames with a matching cup of steaming cocoa. It fades quickly, swept out across the bay, but those moments of the occasional chocolatey goodness smell are worth the constant shivering.

Centering back to, not what sits behind me, but the glory of what’s in front of me. The seagulls, graying, not from seniority, but from youth, not yet at their full potential. Some arguing silently about who ate that crumb of sourdough, some flying overhead, getting the perfect aerial picture of everything. 

My toes found their way to the spot on the sand where the slight edge of pearly white sea foam meets the salty-soaked sand, and I flinched as the cold shimmied up my body. 

I changed to more appropriate bay swimming attire, and ran hands-first into the freezing water, letting them take the most of the impact, with little to no success on the matter. The goosebumps scattered themselves across my arms and legs with the attitude of house faeries fleeing the sunroom windows at the sound of footsteps. 

Myself, as well as a few other recruits began our right-of-passage-like swim out to the buoy and back, pausing every now and then to steal our breaths back from the chilling depths of the ever deepening bay below our feet. After that exciting excursion, (some might even say it was breathtaking) I sat half out of the water clutching my shivering knees, and discussed some very important, much needed information regarding the existence of mermaids, as well as their impact and relationship with the humans. Now covered head to literal toe in sand and salinated liquid bay, I dried off, and put on some new clothes. 

As we discussed several plans for a few of us to return home safely, I left my shoes untied. 

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