My father does not swim.
I’m not old enough to walk yet; my sister is a toddler.
Balancing me on his arm, and holding her by the hand,
He walks into the waves. My father loves the ocean.
My mother sits on the beach.
As he walks away, her eyes widen; but she is a good wife.
(A dutiful wife shouldn’t tell her husband what to do.)
So she turns her back. She doesn’t want to see her family drown.
At four, I have my father’s love of waves.
The fisherman’s son is ten years older than me.
He takes me through the rip tides, deep into the water,
Beyond the hordes of tourists. There, we are alone.
Each summer, we have a week there.
A glorious family vacation in a big, white house.
Each summer, the fisherman’s son keeps me safe.
He lives in a hut, I think — I never really find out.
At fourteen, I have on my first bikini —
Shiny red lycra with black and yellow polka dots.
(My father is progressive — he got it for me.)
The fisherman’s son? He is newly married this year.
We’re out in the depths.
An errant wave strikes my breast, knocks
The red lycra out of place. A gleam of white shows through the tan.
I look at his eyes, but he is not looking at mine.
When I come back to shore,
My mother tells me I’m too old to be taken into the ocean any more.
She did not have her back to me this time.