The sight of waves breaking against the skeletal reef is lost to the night, the sound nearly lost to the rustling of the dry fronds, blown by a forthright northerly. The sand, ground from a thousand thousand shells, unevenly supports the soles of anxious feet standing at the treshhold of five yards of ash-dusted coal, glowing red as fear.
Fear, they say, focuses the mind. But on what? Fear, it would seem.
Voices hush, then raise, breaking in a climax of cheers, then hush again. Each chorus is joined by a host of sparks climbing high, dispersed finally above the palms in a moist, salt rush.
Mind over matter, mind over matter, mind over matter.
But when the matter is rippling the air above it like a bedsheet? When the mind recalls every brush of a hand against a hot burner or thumb blistered by a lightbulb's glass? Nevermind. Find another old saw to salve the fear of slow feet blistered in a pointless ritual of passage. He who hesitates is lost? Last one in is a boiled egg? Big boys don't cry?
Raise the right foot slightly, pause...and stride, right foot, left foot, right, left, right, warm, warmer, hotter, HOT. Across. Cool water quells the odd ember and calms the sting remembered from barefoot bolts across the blacktop in Summer. A cool beer can is pressed into a hand just now unclenching. Fraternal hands crowd forward to slap the shoulder and tossle sweat-dampened hair.
But underneath the camaraderie is a feeling that something deeper has taken hold. Something elemental as fire.