We are armpit deep in the Pacific when I tell him I have left you. You are living with your uncle under some arrangement I don’t want to know about. But there have been northerlies for a month and the on-shore winds keep bringing in the stingers; so even though you are gone, I have not told my father.
I don’t know what I expected out there in the gentle, two-foot swell. Something more human, I guess. Something that told me I’d done the right thing. Sou-easter or not, perhaps I was expecting too much from him.
When I say nothing happened, my father laughs, ‘You don’t expect me to believe that?’
He’s misunderstood me, but I swallow my rebuttal like a gulp of seawater and he catches another wave all the way to the shore, even though we are between the sets.
When he swims back to me he is out of breath and if he has any advice, he doesn’t offer it. We turn our backs on the shore and watch the horizon.
‘It was just time, you know?’
‘I know,’ he says.
And we leave it there. Five years reduced to a few sentences on an outgoing tide. He understands time, as do I.
These days I worry about his lungs. His chest heaves with breathlessness when we swim, and he is greyer somehow. There will be a day when I am stronger than him, but even then there will be things we won’t say, regardless of the time and the tide that is running out between us.