She walks to the edge of the ocean and looks out at the horizon. I cannot know what she is thinking, but I let my mind imagine the possibilities. Without looking back at me for permission, she runs into the oncoming waves, daring them to strike her like the arm of a great Spanish ship that once sailed here; which they do, which she likes.
Passerbys on the beach stop to watch the little girl with her bonnet play on the shore. “So fearless,” they say to me and I smile.
“Yes, yes she is.”
Surfers laugh at her as they emerge from the ocean, defeated. “Alright,” a man in a wetsuit drawls aloud, hauling his board beneath his arm and watching her.
A man and woman ambling by with their large brown dog slow their pace. It is the man who stops to wave and squinting her eyes into the sun, June waves back.
The encounters with these people on the beach seem familial to her as if she has always been a part of this community and I am the outsider, just learning her ways.
Now she stands by the water’s line again, still at last. There is something greater happening here although for the moment both she and the Atlantic are hushed. I know these moments like a sailor knows the eye of a hurricane. We are all in waiting.
Behind us, a teenage boy finishes putting on his wetsuit and straps his surfboard to his ankle. His girlfriend, youthful and blond and tanned, laughs at something he says, causing June to glance back as he and his surfboard, banded together, parade to the ocean. Now in sync with his movements beside her, June points and begins her descent down the shoreline as well. She is convinced to join his cause, rallying every ounce of will within her to stream full speed into the ocean.
The birds above us caw to one another. The surfers ahead of us point to impotent waves. The blond girl behind us puts her headphones in and tunes the world out. But, June is unaware of all of these things as the tide tows the heavy waves from her chubby legs back to the sea. Like a blanket pulled from its bed, the waves roll back beneath us until all we are left with is the orange tint of crushed seashell sand. And in this moment, at last, I exist again to her. Reaching up she grabs my hand for support, anchoring her back into reality. In her mind she has gone on a great adventure with the surfers beyond her, of this I am certain. But to me, and to the coean, and even the strangers passing by, she was always just a little girl splashing in the waves.