The Insider

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When we were in our teens, my identical twin brother took up surfing. He was always the sporty one – the brave one as well – so when he started I didn’t join him but would sometimes tag along and watch.

One day, after he'd been doing it for a few years, he borrowed a friend's camera and asked if I'd come down and take photos. Because I had nothing better to do, and because I secretly admired the way he made everything look so easy, I agreed. I followed him to the break wall at the mouth of the river and, after a quick lesson on how to use the camera, I stood on the rocks and did my best to snap pictures of him as he moved across the waves. Most of the photos I took turned out blurry and poorly framed, as we found out later when we went through them in his bedroom, but there was one that was clear and bright and sharp. In it he was standing slightly crouched with the lip of the wave pitching out over his head, so that he was actually standing inside the wave. I'd heard him refer to this as a barrel and he told me he was stoked I'd got the shot. I remember sitting on the end of his bed and staring at the picture for a long time. It was like seeing myself do something I knew I could never do.

'What's it like?' I asked finally. 'I mean, standing inside a wave?'

He looked at me and shrugged. 'It's kinda like time is standing still, but at the same time it's rushing past. That sounds weird but I dunno how else to explain it. You have to experience it. It's the only way.'

Two days later, my brother had the photograph framed and put up on his wall, and it stayed there until he was twenty-one and he was killed in a car accident on the bends north of town.

Nowadays I live in the city. The beach is no longer around the corner and I've still never surfed, but living here does have its benefits. I like the anonymity. I like the thrum of traffic and the hundreds of nameless faces passing by at any one time. Sometimes when I have visitors (somebody from work or a real estate agent doing the quarterly inspection), they'll see the photograph hanging on the wall and ask if it's me. Usually I nod. When they ask what it feels like, I tell them it's kinda like time is standing still but at the same time it's rushing past. I tell them it sounds weird but I dunno how else to explain it. I keep my voice steady and act like I'm speaking from the experience of someone I could never be.