His face emerged yellower and clearer from where I could see the end of the beach. A rushing white line of waves, his smiling mouth, teeth grinning to the sides of his strong jaw, and his blue swimming trunks dripping sea water. I looked away from him and found a pair of brown slippers. Their owner, the babe was in a golden bikini basking in the now orange light the sea was beginning to cast.

I pushed my hands deeper into the sand, measuring its cold trickle between my fingers. Somewhere, the ice cream cart tolled its sad bell. Somewhere else, a bunch of boys were being noisy. A woman in a big white tee sat looking pleased at the sunset. I watched her and we smiled. The city was closing itself around this beach and this moment. As the ice cream cart bell lolled somewhere into disappearance, a family of five sit gaping at the bikini babe.

Behind me, the street is beginning to widen with noise and activity. I turn back to see the bustling red Pizza Hut shining next to its Shoe Bazaar neighbour. It’s the street you recognize very well. There’s a Kamat down the road, its dull orange and green standing out in your memory. That was the day you sat sulking next to your mother in the car, right after your father whacked you with his belt for running off without telling them.

It was a ship that looked interesting. Was it a ship? You weren’t sure. You are 12 and you beg your parents to take you on the ship. You have all just belted 2 rounds of caramel custard and even the memory of its taste isn’t distracting you from the ship that takes cars, people, and dogs alike and drops them to the other end.

Instinctively, you will lure your younger brother into the ship with you. It starts sailing and suddenly you are unsure about this adventure. What if they freak out? What if the ship stops at the other end? What if they came asking for money? What if my parents leave?

His little cap is getting smaller and smaller and I just realise how small he is. I notice his fingers and toes. They are tiny. And I had carried this little thing with me into my adventure. I saw them standing at the shore. Like my brother, they were becoming too small and I was worried about how small they looked from here. When the ship stopped, my panic grew stronger. I waited, my legs shaking, palms sweating and eyes growing wider with anticipation.

Finally, the ship made its loud bellowing call. We were going back and I felt relief thundering down into my panties and my long, terrified sigh masking the shame I was now carrying in my panties. We stopped.

They had been waiting there. And when I got off the ship, they weren’t around. I held his little hand and led him to the main road. My mother had wept. Her face was red and cheeks, flushed. It’s a face I am both terrified of and detest strongly. Not long after I notice her, my thighs are burning with a mark he has made with his black belt. My brother got one too. We didn’t cry. At the signal, the dull orange and green colors at Hotel Kamat keep me occupied. Its memory caving coyly into that ship I will always be unashamedly happy about.


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