Joshua Edds: Epiphany on the Waccamaw
Everything seems so familiar…yet, so distant; so strange…
The cool air hums with the bustling buzz of the city, vibrating through the night, echoing across the channel and resonating off the black, ineffable tranquility of the river. A full moon blushes in the cloudless sky as bleary eyes catch the glossy glow of pale lunar slivers dripped along the water’s surface.
Another warm can of beer from the ice-less cooler. A splicing spurt of bubbling fizz trickles down, soaking my hand with Dionysus’ sweet elixir. Gulping the skunked liquid, listening to the ever-incessant hum, the inescapable roar of the coastal metropolis: Myrtle Beach—the grand melting pot of the South.
Trying to ignore the roar, I glance around, absorbing the panorama, and escape into the shadows.
The flickering gleam of departing planes dances about in the heavens as the headlights of speeding cars sparkle like Christmas lights along the bridge and tiny human specks scatter about the apartments across the waterway.
Nostalgia floods my thoughts and overwhelms my mind with dreams of the backwoods where I fished and hunted deer. I grow homesick. I long for the rolling hills of the Appalachians. I miss the serenity of the country. And I think: a mere speck,
lost in thought, in this all-too-huge world. And I feel lonely. I try not to think. I drink my beer.
But in the delicate crash of a low tide rolling against the sandy shore, in the subtle churn of the water, everything suddenly changes. The nostalgia, the homesick longing, all fade into the night and drown below the serene water.
Though everything around is structured, every artificial wonder of modern man works perfectly to maintain the order and trite monotony of a superficial existence—the cars,
the interstate, the bridge, the planes; the people all following designated routes, all following common place routine, the river remains free. Vicariously through it, through the thin strand of monofilament connecting the river and me through the medium of a fiberglass fishing rod, I am overcome with the unbound sense of freedom I once felt in the country. And I no longer feel alone.
I close my eyes and lean back in the red folding chair. My grasp around the beer can slowly loosens and it slips from my hand and spills over onto the sand. The roar, I still hear it. But now it’s but a sweet symphony, like crickets in the meadow, like a whippoorwill in the hollow. And I lean back, further and further. Slowly leaning, slowly slipping until everything spirals into its necessary end and gravity hurls me violently backwards onto the ground.
And there I lay, still in the chair, and content myself with my new found position in this world. Again I drift, slowly off into dream.
Heavy eyelids close…
A bell rings.
Like the frenzy of crushed adderall sniffed into the nostrils, I am awake and livid with anticipation. Anxious, I jump to my feet. The fishing pole, bent in half and bowed to a horizontal angle, bounces around in the rod holder and jingles the bell on top with furious spasms at each twitch of the line. I lift the rod from the ground, jerk backwards and feel a tremendous weight on the line—a whale, a shark—something huge!
With great strain, I reel in the line inch by inch. Then, when the beast sees the shoreline, he hauls ass back into deeper water and my reel hisses with screeching line. On the bottom, in the depths of the river, the fish settles to regain strength. Again, I lift the rod vertically and pull backwards, then lean forward to reel in the slack. Twenty restless minutes pass before the fish is nearly to shore, splashing hopelessly in the shallows.
I grab hold of the catfish’s enormous jaw and feel the sandpaper teeth below its whiskered face shredding my flesh. A rebel unscathed by the bustle of the surrounding city is now a captive by my hands. He ceases to fight, ceases to struggle, and contents himself to his new position in this world: to his prison at the end of a stringer.
And in that moment, the epiphany saturates my drunken mind: I have become the city, the corrupter of all things free. And in that moment, we are the same, the fish and I. Our souls silently lost in the looming roar of the city night.