I’m walking down the boardwalk, feeling the bay breeze on my skin, not enjoying it in the carefree psych-meds-commercial kind of way, but using it to protect myself.
This is the boardwalk where I’d run with my dad, my smile incomplete because of fallen baby teeth, my hair all blond curls, my eyes green and glued to my towering father. Right now it’s silent, the only sounds here are my thoughts and the water lapping at the stone under the boardwalk. Those days where we were both together and happy were few and far between, clumped together at the beginning of my life, before the divorce, and at the end of my father’s life, when I was in college. Running up and down this boardwalk would give me splinters in my feet. My dad would curse under his breath because my mom would be after him for letting me run barefoot.
It’s been years since I walked it—my mom and I moved to another part of town when I was five. She says we moved because of crime, but now that I’m older it seems more likely that she couldn’t stand living in the same apartment where she had gained and housed her love, created me, and lost the man who promised to be there.
The sun is setting and it makes me think of evenings when half the building would come down here by the pool, orange sunlight falling over tanned skin, my father and I laying on lounge chairs, his legs seemingly stretching on forever. I tried to copy the way he sat but couldn’t because I barely reached his hip. I imagine him, sitting still, blue eyes behind black shades, smiling, a storm whirring inside him, about to tear him away from me during the years I wanted him most.