It’s a quiet summer. And not the good kind of quiet — the kind that’s comfortable and relaxing. It’s been four weeks, around the time where summer begins to feel like it’s never-ending, and all I’ve heard was white noise. My mother’s voice sounds like a distant memory in my ears — there, but not quite. Everyday I hear the sound of cars driving by through my window. I hear dogs barking and children laughing. I hear the birds chirping. And worse of all, I hear the waves crashing.
Oddly enough, I’ve spent a lot of time on the couch during the day. I usually just stay in my room until my mom comes home, but it only took a week for me to start feeling suffocated. At least the living room is more spacious. I promised myself I would read more this summer since I have nothing better to do and fooled myself into thinking that maybe whichever book I decide on reading will inspire me somehow. Keeping that in mind, I chose a classic, because classics inspire everybody. Though I can confirm that after two weeks of reading The Great Gatsby, instant exhaustion and not understanding anything that was going on, reading the title of a book is far more exciting than reading what’s actually inside.
Today has been average. It has been like every other day since summer started — the same routine. However, when my mom comes home from work, the atmosphere shifts in a way that I can’t explain. It’s delicate like a piece of glass, and I’m the only thing that’s keeping it from crashing down. She looks at me with empty eyes, and I know why. I’ve always known.
She sees him in me, and she feeds on it. I’m tired of it.
“He isn’t coming back,” my voice cracks. The words leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
My mother sobs. Watching her with a lump in my throat makes me realize that no one has ever cried in front of me before. I’ve never seen a real, hoarse, painful cry. She cries so hard her cheeks swell, and it feels like it’s all my fault. As if I’m the reason why dad is gone, why he’s not here to comfort her right now. I start to cry, too. And for a moment, we’re both standing there in the middle of the kitchen, neither of us touching, but crying as our hearts beat as one.
“I’m gonna,” I exhale. “I’m gonna go outside.”
The sun is setting, the sky a mixture of pinks and oranges. The salty scent of the seawater fills my lungs, and for the first time in too long, my eyes look toward water. Something in my chest drops, and my legs begin to ache, but my eyes don’t divert themselves, and in them flashes a bitter clarity. You’d think after so long the beach would at least look a little different. And maybe that would make this all easier, if things weren’t the same. It would make it easier to forget.
I walk from the back porch and onto the sand, my feet shaking at the contact. The ocean is wide and blue, deep with secrets; flowing like a slow song. My cheek is still damp from tears, and I wipe my eyes to prevent anymore from falling. The ocean is beautiful and kind with the way it kisses the shore — it’s dangerous, too. I can’t forget that.
My dad told a lot of stories about the sea. He spent a lot of his childhood on boats before later making a career out of it. Some nights we would go out on the porch, and we’d sit on the steps and talk. He did most of the talking — he was a talker — and I did all the listening, which I didn’t mind doing, because he made everything sound like an exciting adventure. He told me the story of when he and his friends got lost in the middle of the Caribbean sea once. He said it was the first time, while lost at sea, he noticed how dangerously beautiful the ocean could be.
“The ocean is calm like a river on the surface,” he said once. “But sometimes waves can be of great magnitude. The worst thing I could ever imagine is the boat I’m sailing to form a crack after hitting the water with force.”
I remember looking up to him with eyes filled of hope. “But your boat won’t crack, right?”
“I’d hope so,” he smiled. “The sea is strong, but I’m stronger.”
A cool wind brushes my shoulders that makes me shiver. It’s nearly dark now, and the water is beginning to seem like one big void. I fold my arms, looking out like I’m lost, searching for something, and maybe I am. A search for forgiveness, for acceptance. My dad went to sea one day and never came back. It devoured him, let him drown and suffocate by its mystery. Not even one life vest was enough.
I think about my mom inside the house, alone, crying, and it feels like I’m probably the worst daughter ever. I think about my dad whose everywhere but nowhere; whose the salt in the air and the breeze brushing through my hair. I also think about me. And I don’t think standing out here is helping. Though it does make me turn around and head back inside, because tonight is not the night I let it all go. Today was meant to face what I was fearing and accept it. It was possibly the first step of many, but at least it’s something.
I walk back inside feeling the heavy weight on my back being temporarily lifted.