As best as I can describe it, the day we found that rock on the beach came straight out of a chick-flick: a barefooted walk on the beach in the late afternoon, flip-flops in hand, flirtatiously threatening to throw each other into the waves. It was equal parts cheesy and perfection, this-can't-be-real and please-let-this-be-happening.
A wave retreated just long enough to reveal a lustrous speckled rock that looked nothing like the other smooth colorless stones we had tried to skip just moments earlier, laughing at our feeble attempts at childhood talents. It was shiny and translucent and glimmered more than the others. I couldn't help but pick it up and take in its charm. A rock was a rock but this clearly wasn't just any rock, this was a gem.
"I'm going to keep it," I said matter-of-factly.
Because when you find something that rare, well, that's what you do. You keep it. He laughed and shrugged, helping me rinse off the remaining sand that marred its beauty.
Whisked away in the silly grins of the afternoon, the rock went forgotten until later in the evening when we circled the kitchen counter, still beaming, sunkissed and wind-chapped. The rock! I laughed as I got it out and showed him. We both took a second look. The beautiful rock that shone like granite in the wet sand at the beach now looked dull and like, well, just any other ho-hum rock.
I frowned. How was that even possible? We joked about taking the rock out of its element and it being sad the way Orcas' fins fold over when they're removed from the wild. He quickly rescued the rock via a Solo cup, tap water and table salt as I giggled, suddenly 12 years old and starry-eyed again, watching the rock magically transform back into a gem.
The rock sat in its red Solo cup ocean for several weeks, peacefully, while we weathered our own tumultuous waves and storms. I had stumbled upon him a lot of the same ways I had the rock - unexpectedly and very much taken aback. I had been caught off-guard and found myself marveling over this lustrous gem amongst a sea of seemingly dull rocks. I had grabbed on immediately with the intent to keep him only to find he didn't look the same when removed from his element. I tried to find ways to make him glimmer and shine again only to discover that sometimes a rock is, in fact, just a rock.
In the end he was no gem and he certainly wasn't the guy in the chick-flick movie that ends Happily Ever After. He was just another rock amongst many rocks that I would eventually tip-toe, stumble or trip over. It was a lesson that you can't simply polish something so tarnished back into perfection that wasn't meant to shine the way you hoped it would. Who I thought he was had eroded quickly into a smattering of pebbles and disappointment. All I could do was let him go for someone else to find.
Aside from a splash of simulated salt water and a few specks of sand, the red Solo cup sat empty on the kitchen counter for a day or two, a memorial of heartbreak and lost promises; its emptiness loud with metaphor. I didn't want to let it go. I didn't want to let him go. But I couldn't hang on to just a few remaining grains of sand when what I needed was a rock.