the ocean has become the sea (excerpt)

She goes over the climb in her thoughts, to recover that moment (even though the sea is there in front of her and fills her whole head), to relive that moment when space split asunder, sprang out to the sides, and liquefied into this black mass, thrusting back the edges of the sky and dissolving them, drinking them, breathing through millions of red slits opening and closing on the motionless black mass, through millions of little mouths on the enormous closed black mouth where a pale gleam lingers at the place where the sun flicked out its tongue. To rediscover that moment when, all of a sudden, the dune became the sea, you would have to go back down, start once more, close your eyes and pretend to have forgotten, opening them again only at the top, absorbing the shock without flinching, forcing your body to stand there facing the void. But the sun has set, the sky overhead has turned black and is slowly descending, folding the sea over on itself, and that’s it for the first time; now she has seen the sea.

Her face is as if washed with it, opened up, and her mother believes that – that you can tell from people’s faces, especially children’s, who has seen the sea and who has not: those who must have welcomed the sweep of the sea into their eyes (crashing all the ways to the back of their skulls, it empties them out, in a way), and those who were able only to dream it, from pictures or words, those who have tried, confusing the sea and infinity, to keep adding a little bit more to the image, telling themselves that even beyond, still further, without end, the sea goes on…

When it’s not that at all, when, compared to galaxies, the sea is minuscule.

from Le Mal de Mer by Marie Darrieussecq (translated Linda Coverale, 2001)