He sat on the sand, watching the waves approach him like a roaring tiger, only to lick his feet like a pet kitten, hungry for attention.
His tired eyes scanned the horizon, across the vast frothy sea, looking for a sign, anything that will mark the end of his vigil.
As his feet continued to play footsy with the water, his eyes began to water, not from any external irritant, but from an image that began to form in his mind, a scene intruding uninvited into his thoughts.
He had made her cry then.
She wanted to visit her ailing sister, who lived in the islands beyond the corals. But it wasn’t a good time to go sailing over the often-treacherous waters. The monsoon was soon to be upon them.
She was insistent. Her sister had raised her on her own, ever since their parents were lost at sea when they were little. They were inseparable ever since, only to part when the elder sister fulfilled her responsibilty and married off her younger sibling to a man worthy of her.
She pleaded with him. “My sister thought the world of you. She said there was no other man who would make me as happy as you would. I believed her. I still do. So make me happy! Let me go to her!”
He was tired. Grumpy. Fishing was an arduous task, having been made ever more Herculean in recent times thanks to the mysterious disease that had recently killed off most of the fishes in the surrounding waters. The disease seemed to have disappeared, but its effects are still lingering. He used to pull several large containers of fish every other day in the old days. Now he was lucky to return with half a pail of small crustaceans every evening.
So he snapped. “Your sister was foolish to have remained alone all these years! She refused all the men I sent her way, sometimes chasing them away with sticks and stones! If she wanted to die alone, well, she’s getting her wish now!” And he stormed off outside the house to smoke.
He could hear her sobbing. He regretted it the moment he said it, but he was angry, and she refused to see his point of view. He couldn’t risk taking her over the water now. He’s a skilled swimmer and diver, but she wasn’t. If they were to capsize far from the shore, he would have been unable to rescue her as well as himself. They would both drown, since he would never even think of leaving her to save himself. Why couldn’t she see that?
Her sobbing was insistent. He made up his mind. He’d take her across the waters tomorrow, come what may. For her sake.
But it was not to be. The next morning, he awoke to an empty house. His boat was missing. His food was prepared and wrapped in some palm fronds. She had left him to journey alone to see her sister. Without a word.
He went to the shore, watching the furious waves jostle for position, and sat on the sand, his body numb with shock, his mind wracked with worry.
He returns to the shore every day, just before the sun rises, knowing she wouldn’t risk sailing out over the waves in the dark. When the sun sets, he returns to his little home. He eats whatever little crustacean he caught on the beach that day, and goes to sleep.
Every morning he returns to the shore, staring intently ahead, expecting her to appear at any moment.
He waits there still.