Jacob stared vacantly out the window as the palm trees gently brushed the balcony. He could see their movement, but couldn’t grasp what was happening. He had seen the trees move before – wildly sometimes even, but normally Jacob only saw them in their stillness as they rested upright reaching towards the sun. Below, the beach was layered with people wearing underclothing, occasionally sprinkled with naked breasts and sun-kissed private parts. Jacob knew that he shouldn’t stare at the women, but was fascinated by the way that their nakedness seemed to free them. He couldn’t think of a better way to let the water stroke a body, and imagined it must be the same feeling that he gets in the morning, when his mother pulls off his clothing and makes him stand in the curtain covered white room, where the water splatters across his body from the metal thing above.
He wanted so much to run down to the beach and take off his shorts, but couldn’t get the meaning out of his mouth. He never could - he didn’t know how people moved their mouths back and forth to make words, but he understood when people made the sounds. He began to tap the window loudly with his fists, hoping that someone could hear him.
His mother walked in “Jacob honey, do you want something?” He bounced his head up and down pointing sideways with his jaw at the ocean below.
“You want the beach sweetheart?”Jacob nodded fervently, pushing his hands down on his shorts to show her that he wanted to take his clothes off.
His mother laughed, “honey, you can’t go out there naked – it’s only what grown-ups do.” He balked – banging his head into the glass.
“Oh honey, I understand – you’ve never been to the ocean before. Let’s get your sister and see if she wants to go swimming, k?”
Jacob looked out the window again, rocking quietly back and forth as his mother called in her high-pitched voice to his sister. He wanted to get into that water, and let it push him around like the other people were doing. Back and forth, he swayed. The colors below melted into him. As the indigo water kissed the white sandy ground, a kind of foam would emerge, reaching towards the sprawled out bodies. Jacob thought that the water was trying to touch them to make them free too.
Sarah bounced into the room smiling. “Hi Jake, what’cha doing?” Jacob rocked, and flapped his hands towards the window- grinning from excitement.
Sarah grabbed his hand, nodding approvingly at the Curaçao coast. “Let’s go – Dad can help you into the water.”
Jacob beamed, and continued to flap as he pounded his sandals into the ground after her. Sarah walked fast, her steps quick and calculating. Jacob watched her feet as he followed her down to the blueness. Behind him, he could hear his father’s voice telling his mother goodbye. Stomp, stomp, stomp, went the feet around him. Splash, splash, splash, went the water. Jacob swayed from side-to-side in anticipation.
“You excited buddy?” His father asked from behind.
“Uhhhh,” Jacob moaned, extending his neck to stretch his voice. He knew his father would understand – he always did. Even when Jacob was still and couldn’t communicate with motion, his father could read his fragmented thoughts, and would show him that he understood what nobody else could.
Sarah flipped her sandals off and sprinted towards the beach, kicking sand behind her as she ran. Jacob stopped abruptly and pulled his head upwards to watch his sister. He wanted to see if her face showed the familiar freedom that he had noticed all morning. As she stepped into the ocean, Sarah turned to face them, grinning from ear to ear, and Jacob knew that she felt it. He decided then that being naked wasn’t important, because his sister had on her underclothes and she was free. His father gently wrapped his fingers around Jacob’s wrist, signaling that he also understood.
Jacob turned towards his father, bobbing his head to let him know he was ready, and they began to walk towards the water. The women that he saw earlier were laying on brightly colored towels, their bodies soaking in the sunlight. Jacob started to move his hands, carrying his father’s with him as he swayed.
“Alright Jake, let’s take off your shirt and get in – I’ll be right next to you the whole time.”
Jacob moved his arms towards the sky allowing his father to take his shirt off. Without hesitation, Jacob grabbed his father’s hand and guided them into freedom, smiling broadly as he took his first step into the ocean.