Image credit: Matt Hardy


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The sea breeze against his chest was an unexpected feeling, though it shouldn’t be. It was cold and a little misty, like it was against his arms and face only a second ago. Of course it would feel the same, but sometimes, his chest felt like an entity entirely separate to him, as though it wouldn’t feel the same things the rest of his body did.

He looked down, breath caught in his throat. Bare except for a smattering of dark hairs and the pink scars that dragged under his pecs had faded enough to only be visible when standing close. Bare, shirtless, revealed to the world like stage curtains had been opened over his body, a fanfare from an invisible crowd urging him on.

Sand parted under his feet, hot from the sun, glowing radiantly in the light. He took a
step forward. Children laughed and splashed each other in the shallow water. Another step forward. A dog raced across the sand in front of him. A third step and he was standing on the damp sand where the tide had once been. His friends waited for him deeper in the sea, jumping with every passing wave.

His shirt sat over the backpack he’d brought with him, forgotten the moment he’d
thrown it behind him. At first, he hadn’t wanted to remove it, too scared of what strangers might say about his scars. But what did it matter? He had spent thousands of dollars to have the body he’d always wanted. He deserved to show it off to anyone who dared to look.

Another step forward and the sea foam washed against his feet. He let out a laugh. He was shirtless. He was shirtless! For the first time in public, with crowds surrounding him everywhere he looked. None of them glanced at him, none of them could see that there was anything different about him.

After laughter came the tears – of relief, and sadness, and sheer happiness. He felt
bright. His friends waved to him. He waved back and ignored the taste of salt in his mouth. He kept moving, one step after another, and let the cool blue water brush against his bare chest for the first time. The sea swallowed his tears and his body and enveloped him in its welcoming embrace.