My green tufts of vegetation burst from the

My father takes me down to the ocean when I am so small that I do not yet reach his waist. My feet fumble across the crumbling, cracking, sand and he pulls me along gently by my hand telling me to be careful of shells cut like glass and the seaweed that will ensnare me like a bear trap. He does not let me dive headfirst into the mouth of the beast. Instead, he slips his hand into mine, helping me weather the melodic pounding of the unrelenting waves.That morning, my father had crept into my room with the sun and shaken me into consciousness. “Get your board,” he had whispered. “We’re going to conquer the ocean.”It is minutes later now and we are trudging down a precarious dirt path, tactfully descending the decline of South African roads. The air burns with a fervor, the smell of salt freezes my face into a permanent, upturned wrinkle. I almost trip over a rock, but my father steadies me and says, “Almost there, kiddo.”The ocean is different than I have ever seen it. It is scattered with long, silver puddles. In the pink glow of the rising sun, the sand looks shiny and slippery. Around us, green tufts of vegetation burst from the earth in unpredictable patterns and yellow wildflowers with thin stems knock softly against each other in the wind.My father tells me to wait and he steps down into the wet sand. I watch as his sandals sink deep into the ground and leave long footsteps. __________________I do not say goodbye to the ocean before shutting the car door and stretching the seatbelt across my chest. I do not say goodbye because I think that I won’t miss it. We are leaving South Africa. We are going to Connecticut where we will embrace the American Dream. We drive alongside a cliff, the rock rough and jagged and sprinkled with a thousand tiny diamonds. I press my finger against the glass.__________________An American Dream we achieved, however, it did not come without sacrifice.An unrelenting ritual we underwent every day. The countless “Hey Pa, wanna head out on the boards?” juxtaposed with the harsh, guttural “Not right now.” Scorned I storm out, angered at the supposed degradation of our relationship. But I do not understand why he does so.For I do not see him anxiously depositing every scrap of money we have into a future for me.For I do not see him coaxing my mother to come out of her room to help her go toe to toe with her depression.For I do not know that my father sits at the kitchen table after I go to sleep and cries because the mortgage is past due.__________________When I am fifteen years old, my father takes me back to South Africa and we go once more to the ocean. The neglected trail is long gone now and we stumble in our Nike clad feet over dried up cacti and colorless desert flowers. I am too old now to hold my father’s hand. He walks a few steps ahead of me and I do not see his face.The beach is bone-dry, littered with dented soda cans, beaten strips of tire and mud-stained garbage bags. Many a storm has strewn it into disarray except for the dried roots of long-dead plants, still lodged in the dirt, which reach out toward us like skeleton hands.My father crouches over and his shirt draws taut across his back. His feet sink heavily into the ground, neck straining upwards, resembling Atlas holding up the world on his back, watching the hypnotic rhythm of seaweed ebbing on the remnants of the beach. Suddenly the vague image of my father comes to me, clothes plastered to his body, unchained by any woes, a smirky grin, clasping an all-too-small-for-him surfboard.I wonder if he, too, has washed far away.