Our hotel window looks out onto a 180 degree view of the ocean. At night, whenever the noisy air conditioner switches itself off, I hear the waves crashing. The sound of waves builds to a crescendo, a loud bang, and then it dissipates as the salt water settles into the sand. What follows is a silence. In that silence, when I’m waiting for the rhythmic next wave, I start to worry a little, this silence seemingly dragging on forever. In that void, a low ebbing panic creeps in, and I start to wonder if all this is real. Maybe I’ve imagined my life here, dreamed up this baby sleeping in the travel cot, conjured up this man snoring next to me. I hold my breath — half expecting to jolt awake to the realization that this has been some mistake — until the next thunderous crash comes and shakes the foundation of the building.
Sitting on the beach, M is playing with sand for the first time. He takes to it the same way he approached grass for the first time. He is tentative, letting his hand hover above as if to feel the energy of the sand, then he pats it gently, surprised by the warmth of it from the sun. Now he’s pinching grains; now he’s searching out bits of debris. When Baba half buries a lid from a drink bottle, he finds it. Again and over. But when Baba buries the whole thing in the sand, it disappears for M, as if it was never there.
Baba takes M to the water, and they crouch there, watching the waves. M digs his uncertain feet into the wet sand. The wind lifts wisps of his hair. His fists are clenched so tight that they shake a little. His shoulders are hunched and his entire body is stiff. It’s the first time he sees this big expanse. Blue sky meets chocolate sea, as far as his little eyes can see. It must have been daunting. But Baba’s right here, I say, right behind and won’t let you go. He just wants to get your tiny feet to experience the waves, this mass of water that covers more than half of this cold fragile earth.