It is dad’s birthday, maybe his last. We are having a family gathering, to celebrate. All day I feel sick. Nervous about seeing my brother. Sad about our fractured family. Hopeful that the cousins can still be friends and grow up together. Why does my stomach feel so bad? Is it nerves? I feel churned up.
The seaside restaurant is heaving. It’s hot. A bayside crowd ‘cavort’, a turbanned lady parades with a small white dog draped over her arm, a cigarette artfully posed in her hand. Seems like such a cliche.
The scene is oppressive. The heat, the people, the music.
My brother and I sit like sentinels. We are on either side of our father. Our frail father, gasping and grimacing in his pain.
On the horizon, ships move their bulk steadily across towards the heads.
As the sky begins to glow, silhouettes become prominent, people move in front of the setting sun, photos are taken of smiling friends.
The light in the room dims just as the sun hits the horizon line-does he feel the softening glow?
An overladen fishing dinghy bobs alarmingly on the bay. Joyriders on a boat, out at sea, bob bob bob, the leaning hull seems close to capsizing.
Little red lights on a passing boat, blinking.
We do not speak all evening, my brother and I.
As I put Dad into the car and say farewell, I wonder if I will see him alive again. I hesitate before I close the tinny vehicle door. That vessel could carry him away. I think of a coffin. So flimsy, like a paper boat on the sea.
As my brother and I walk in opposite direction towards our cars, I look back at the jetty, the inky water now dark. The lights leading out towards the kiosk glow like a string of beacons…drawing us out into the deep.