Ocean: be careful of shells cut like glass

Ocean: My father takes me down to the ocean when I am so small that I do not yet reach his waist. I flounder, my feet flaking across the crumbling, cracking, sand and he leads me softly by my hand telling me to be careful of shells cut like glass and the seaweed that will ensnare me like a bear trap. I am not allowed to dive headfirst into the mouth of the beast. Rather, he clasps his hand and mine, helping me weather the melodic pounding of the unrelenting waves.Earlier, my father had sauntered into my room, the sun chasing his every step, stirring me to life. “Grab your board,” his voice pealing into my ear, the words dripping out like the honey dribbling down the side of a honeycomb . “The ocean is ours.”Trudging down a precarious dirt path, the air burning with a fervor, the smell of salt freezes my face into a permanent, upturned wrinkle. Stumbling, the ground decides to swallow me whole but my father braces me and says, “We’re close, kiddo.”The ocean is different than ever seen before. Sprawling indefinitely, resembling a basin of liquid silver sloshing back and forth in a monotonous rhythm . The amber hue of the rising sun reveals the shine of the sand. All around us, a smattering of pretorias burst from the earth in joyous rancour, their glow unmistakable.My father turns to me with a wry smile, telling me to wait as he plunges into damp sand below. I watch as his bare feet getting repetitively eaten as long footsteps are left in his wake.  Journey:”Goodbye”. An utterance I would not make to the ocean before scuttling into seat 36E and clasping tight that mammoth buckle. “Goodbye”. An utterance I would not make because I did not think that I would miss it. South Africa has gone. Connecticut lies ahead. Our American Dream lies ahead. We soar amongst the clouds, their cotton-candy-marshmallow-fluff likeness a sight I had never beholden. My handprint stains the window.Sacrifice:An American Dream we achieved, however, it did not come without sacrifice.An unrelenting ritual we underwent every day. The countless “Hey Pa, wanna head out on the boards?” juxtaposed with the harsh, guttural “Not right now.” Scorned, I storm out, angered at the supposed degradation of our relationship. But I do not understand why he does so.For I do not see him anxiously depositing every scrap of money we have into a future for me.For I do not see him coaxing my mother to come out of her room to help her go toe to toe with her depression.For I do not see my father’s face wracked with anguish, hunched over his desk while I lie contently in my bed, crying because our rent cannot be made. Return:When I am fifteen years old, the ocean and I are conjoined once more. The trail is but a barren wasteland beneath our feet, with every stride the pallid flowers crumble, their sunken hues beseeching us for water. Too old to hold his hand, I clamber a few paces behind my father, unable to see his face.The beach is wilted and withering, adorned with sullied cokes and dirt-caked plastic wrappers. Many a storm has strewn it into disarray with tree roots upended, defying both gravity and life, appearing to chase after us with its wiry tendrils.My father bends down, drawing tight the wetsuit over his shoulders. His body is enveloped by the ground beneath us, allowing himself to be swallowed grain of sand by grain of sand, listening to the hypnotic rhythm of seaweed ebbing on the remnants of the beach. Out comes a faint image of my father, clothes licking his body, the corner of his eyes crinkling as he breaks forwards in raucous laughter, clasping an all-too-small-for-him surfboard.Is he, too, still there?

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