From the corner of my eye, I saw the whole thing happen. She bumped her elbow, and it tipped out of her hand, then liquid splashed up and everywhere. I could have reached over, but I was too slow.
“Oh, I can’t believe it,” Daisy said, jumping up from her chair.
“It’s fine,” I said. I had jerked away to avoid being splashed but it was of no use. Some of her beer fell on my arm and bare chest.
“Jack, I’m so sorry,” Daisy said.
“It’s all right,” I said. “I’ll just use my towel.” She wasn’t paying attention. She gave a frustrated look, bit her lip, and sat back down.
“Are you okay, Daisy?” Millie sat on the other side of Daisy.
“I’m fine,” Daisy said. “But I just splashed Jack a little. I’m such a klutz. Maybe, I’ve had too much.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” I said. “You shouldn’t have snuck beer here. I don’t think the locals allow drinking on their beaches.”
“Nonsense,” Millie said. “No kids. No worries. This is Banda Aceh. Paradise. Live a little. When’s the next time you’re going to do this?”
I wiped my arm and chest with the towel, frustrated. Daisy was always careless. And I always felt like a shadow next to her, like something unimportant that appeared nearby. Ever since we met, it wasn’t about us, it was about her. Then we got married and when we had kids, it was about them. Now, they were a lot older and it’s coming back to being about her again. After all these years, I was done. Once the kids leave home, I thought that will be it. But I couldn’t imagine leaving her. I felt like a heavy shadow, weighing her down. But what good is a shadow alone? When she asked about going away together, just the two of us, I felt confused and I thought maybe, there’s a chance. Maybe, it will be different. Maybe, it’s time for us.
“Jack,” Daisy said. “Weren’t you listening?”
“Of course,” I said. “What is it?”
“We must go,” she said. “Millie said we have to travel to Pulau Weh. It’s the best place for snorkeling.”
I didn’t answer right away. She was always just too friendly. We haven’t been here more than two days and she had already made friends and had made arrangements with them, like I wasn’t enough. She confused me. I thought we came here to work on us.
“Sure,” I said. “If that’s what you want.”
“You know,” she said. “The beer is strong. I feel the shakes a little.”
Strange. I felt the same way. Just a moment ago, a tremor ran through my body and I thought it may have been my irritation with Daisy, and I thought, maybe this is where it all turns sour. Looking around, I noticed expressions of uneasiness among the others on this beach. That’s when I looked forward and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed it before.
I stood up from my chair and walked toward what used to be the shoreline. It seemed unnatural. The ocean had receded. I walked past jagged rocks that may have been seven or eight feet underwater. I was mesmerized by this new world suddenly revealed. My feet examined and touched hard yellow clumps of sediment sitting among the soft beige sand. It seemed that everything I felt before became minuscule with this revelation. I didn’t know how long I was held in its trance. Then I looked up, focusing beyond the rocks in the distance.
At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. It felt unfamiliar and I couldn’t look away.
“Jack, something is wrong. Please, we have to leave.” I felt the words stretch and fall into a hush against the ocean.
A gust of wind, smelling of seawater and sand, blew against me and I saw in the distance a wall of ocean rising against the bright sky, covering the horizon. An immediate dread overtook my body, yet I saw only beauty. I had never seen anything like it.
Her faint voice echoed and reminded me of who I was in her world and for an instant, I turned to see Daisy. Her face looked contorted and red with fright. I was no longer a shadow. Millie pulled her, running away from the beach. I watched them disappear into the swarms of people running past the sand dunes and the brush, past the buildings, and into the parking lots beyond. I wanted her to find a safe place. This will be my act of love for her.
I turned to watch the ocean wall rush toward me with the sound of a hundred trains racing, thundering along their tracks. I was too slow. I stood before the towering waves, silhouetted against the tsunami, in awe of its raw power.
I was no longer filled with fear or dread and stood firm, planting my feet in the wet sand. This will not destroy me—us.
It seemed that all of humanity stood there along with me and though the ocean would devastate all in its path, we will rise from the destruction, our names forever in lights across the dark sky as a testament of our love for each other and a reminder to those who will survive that though we were struck down and broken, we will not be destroyed; the invisible now forever visible.
B. A. Varghese graduated from Polytechnic University (New York) with a degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently working in the Information Technology field. Inspired to explore his literary side, he has earned a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida. His works have appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Apalachee Review, Prick of the Spindle, and other literary journals. (www.bavarghese.com)
Photo: Rudy and Peter Skitterians