I took Akira to the shore this weekend. She sat on the rocks next to me as I gazed into the wind and let the salt air comb my hair. I left it down, just the way she likes it, even though it kept sticking to my lips and catching on my lashes.
I thought about the first time we came to the shore, a lifetime ago. We climbed the rocks in bare feet, out of breath by the time we found a flat spot perfect for a rest and a picnic lunch. She sat cross-legged, half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in one hand and my left hand in her right. There was less wind that day, but still I kept my hair clipped to the back of my head. Akira left hers down and let the gentle breeze play with it.
As I chomped on a crispy red apple, I watched the horizon where a simple fishing boat motored by. A commuter jet soared lazily above and I found myself wondering about its passengers. Where were they going and where had they been? I wanted to take Akira on a trip further than the beach an hour away, but it was hard to get enough time off work in those days. I was still trying desperately to prove myself.
When lunch was finished, Akira perched at the end of a rock and dipped her toes in the cool ocean water.
“It’s like ice!” She squealed, but she didn’t remove her foot. Instead she plunged it deeper until the water reached her knee. She found purchase and dipped the rest of her body into the water, having not bothered to remove any of her clothing. When she emerged, her cheeks had already pinkened from the chill and her teeth were chattering, but she stayed where she was. She tread water for a while, in constant motion to warm up her body.
“Join me.” A command, not a request, and I obeyed. I did not test the water first, but instead dropped myself beneath the blue as quickly as I could, the shock of cold taking my breath away before I had a chance to hold it. When I broke through the surface, Akira giggled and turned onto her back. I joined her and we lay there, floating on the water like lilypads.
Today the wind blows too hard to consider touching the water. Instead I lay next to Akira, hands folded beneath my head as a pillow, and watch the clouds traverse the sky above.