When I was young, everything was so much more vibrant and alive. It all seemed to have such deeper colors. I can remember going to a lake 20 minutes away and looking out at the water, sun perfectly reflecting off of tips of splashed water; it looked crystalline. Jagged and smooth fragments of sapphire swaying effortlessly 10 feet in front of my fragile little body. I can remember being surrounded by it, in it, all the sapphire, looking out to the yellow and blue rope buoy ducks topping the water, thinking about swimming out to them just to touch them; afraid I might not make it, might fall into the depths of gems and freeze myself in their beauty. I never tried. When I got out of the water, I would walk to the blanket, or to the picnic tables set up in a clearing of trees and eat my sandwich. I’d walk to the stream 5 minutes away and catch some crawfish. Following the stream would take me to its mouth, to an endless lake quite unlike the man-made one I had just swam in. I remember it as though I were on a cliff’s edge, watching the diamonds fall from the wooded mine to their collective bed. I would watch them harmoniously gather below me with my bucket of crawfish. How perfect. How limitless. I could spend days and weeks at this stream watching the endless gathering of crystals. How blue. How white. How perfect.
Where has the color gone? Why does nothing seem so beautiful as that lake anymore? Everything is faded; the colors, the sounds. I can’t hear without a ringing in my ear anymore. Can’t think without a million thoughts preceding it, following it. I just miss the colors. Where did they go? How could they leave me?
The small amount of sand is almost unnecessary. I can barely stretch my legs without snapping a twig from the withering trees in the picnic tabled clearing; the few trees the clearing is shaded by, anyway. Beyond the handful of conifers is a field of asphalt the trees are meant to curtain. I understand developers trying to shield the beach goer from the way-too-close reality of cars and roads, but the reflection from metallic hoods can be seen from the tables; eaters shield their eyes from beams in the parking lot they’re not supposed to see.
The water looks weathered, it looks stagnant. When swimmers burst from inside, the water sighs in all directions. The light blue it provides is disregarded as black plastic bags float past swimmers. A slight gust of wind can send a zip lock bag formerly holding a bologna sandwich 6 feet and into the man-made lake, wrapping itself around legs jutting out of water, the rest of the body doing an underwater handstand. Sometimes the water looks greenish, not like emeralds, but like sludge. Slime. I think it is, actually. There’s a film of something coming from one of the plastic bags, I have no idea what it could be.
I take a walk towards the stream, an anemic body of water just down the road. Unlike the 5 trees near the tables, I actually kind of feel as though I’m in a forest here. I walk along the rocks on the side, looking for childhood crawfish, but I don’t see a single one. My foot slips off a rock and near the stream but doesn’t get wet; the water’s given up. I follow it the short path to its opening, it dribbles out into a larger lake 4 feet below it. I hop to a series of rocks jutting out of the water to take a better look; small boats sit around looking for fish as I had crawfish, coming up equally empty. The lake is large but mimics the same jaded light blue sighs from the smaller lake. The view isn’t bad, but not as I remember. None of this is. How could that be? Where has the color gone? What changed? Me? How did it all become so small, so fragile? So limited? How do I change it back, can I change it back?
I walk back down the road to the parking lot. I can see straight ahead through the rotting teeth trees and over the lake completely, towards the other side where a dock juts out and ropes an old looking row boat to its post. The trees don’t look greener, the dock browner, or the sun sunnier. I could swim to that side easily if I Wanted, maybe everything looks crystalline over there. Warm. Limitless. Perfect.
I look down to the asphalt, get into my car, and drive away. The lake can’t hide reality. It can’t hide what’s on the other side of the lake either, though it does look like the trees go for miles and miles on the other side. I should swim over there if I come back.