Wave is a short story about Ray, Alma, and the waving man. When Ray is going to work, he passes by a house where a man is sitting on the porch waving at people who pass by. This experience intrigues him because at one time he feels guilty when he does not wave while in other instances, it made him feel silly (Ravenel 204). Ray shows fear when it comes to making decisions and is more focused on being safe. He is afraid of taking the chance with Alma and telling her his true feelings. Ray is caught up between despair and hope and is afraid to make moves as he feels it is too risky.
Ray is friends with Alma but secretly has feelings for her and is unable to tell her. When Alma visits him, Ray has expectations of affection and romance. Also, the story hints that he views her as her girlfriend or a future girlfriend. On that night, he is unable to express his love to Alma because of the presence of a man in the backyard who was crying loudly. Alma forces her to go and check whether the man needs help which disrupts the whole mood. After two days of not meeting with Alma, Ray is disappointed and wonders if Alma knows if he longs for her (Holman 212). This indicates the secret feelings which he harbors for Alma.
Amid the despair, Ray also has hope that everything would work out well. He is hopeful that Alma will recognize his feelings and become his girlfriend. Ray wants to go and see Alma when they do not meet for two nights in a row but wonders what she would think. The waving man forces him to think about why he makes certain choices in life. In one instance, Ray tries to avoid passing by the waving man to avoid feeling guilty. When they discover a man in the backyard, Ray is hopeful that the man is okay and insists on not calling the police (Ravenel 205). Incidentally, the man is not there when Ray checks for the second time, which does not provide clarity on what transpires.
Ray is caught between the waving man and the wailing man and is afraid of making a move. In her relationship with Alma, ray desires more than friendship but is unable to tell her. He is afraid of going to her house and talking to her. This is because he does not want to know what Alma thinks about him. Ray notes that for Alma to accept him, it would mean giving up his reality of suffering, and for her to reject him, it would crash him (Ravenel 213). Therefore, for Ray, it is better to remain in the same state as changing would bring unexpected things.
In summary, Wave is a story about safety as Ray is afraid of taking chances due to being caught up between despair and hope. He hopes that Alma will be his girlfriend but is afraid of telling her his feelings. The wailing man represents the despair that he suffers, while the waving man represents the hope he has with Alma. The idea that the story is about safety is true because Ray is afraid of taking chances and making waves. Making waves makes him think he is an idiot or silly.
Ravenel, Shannon. “Wave.” Best of the South: From the Second Decade of New Stories from the South, edited by John Holman, Advance Reading Copy, Algonquin Books, 2005, pp. 203–14.