Standing on the edge of the surf I could feel the warm gulf waters lapping over my barefeet. Looking down I made sure the white cotton slacks I was wearing were rolled up high enough to keep from getting damp. As I wiggled my toes in the foam of the surf I began to wonder why I had been drawn here to the edge of the water.
Raising my head I let the warm breeze caress my opened shirt. The beat of the reggae band at the surf bar flowed with the night air. The licks of the bass guitar, the rhythmic beat of the drum pulling at the dancers souls. But for some reason that wasn't for me tonight. Not tonight. Something called me to the surf. Something strong, something I could feel deep inside.
Looking out over the waves I could see the fishing boats ploughing their way through the dark waters. The red and green lights, like christmas decorations on a busy highway, showing their directions of movement. Perhaps my father was out there, dragging his nets, praying for the bounty that had supported our family as I had grown up. But that wasn't why I was here. That wasn't what had called me back to the sea.
Feeling the warm, wet sand under my feet I began to stroll along the line of surf. Glancing out at the fleet I missed the innocence that I had possessed in my youth. Growing up on a fishing boat wasn't easy by no means. Yet the discoveries a young man made, the camaraderie that existed among the crew, that followed you through life. That made you the man you were today.
Raising my eyes to the stars I wondered what kind of man I had become since those days on the boats. I had left without regret. I didn't want to become like my father. Struggling day to day and living months at sea. I had done that as a teen. I wasn't about to do that the rest of my life. So what did I do? I enlisted in the Army. At least there my feet would be on dry land.
Stuffing my hands into my pockets I turned and watched the nearest boat begin to pull up it's nets. Yep, big difference that change made for me. In the Army you still struggled. Except there it was to stay alive. And as for the dry land part, well who knew I'd be walking in rice paddies along the Thai and Cambodian border at the end of the war. So much for being a kid and thinking you knew it all.
My instincts had kept me alive then, but why were they tugging at me now? What had drawn me away from a cold beer and a chance to do the Rumba with a beautiful college brunette who kept winking at me across the dance floor?
Shaking my head I just laughed at the picture of this 45 year old soldier dancing with a gorgeous 22 year old college student. I'm sure her friends would love it. Her long brown hair, mine graying from age. Damn, I could be her father.
Looking around I noticed the waiters had a tub of iced beer next to the volleyball court. Strolling over I grabbed a Corona and gave the poor guy sitting there a tip.
Smiling I waved my beer and went back to staring at the waves. Pops, yea that's me now. Forty-five years old, graying hair and goatee, still slim and in shape. But definitely Pops to these kids.
Taking a swig of the Corona after I had squeezed the lime into the frosted bottle, I stood thinking of the one woman I had met in my life that ever meant anything to me. I had met Kim while on leave many years ago. I never really thought it would lead to much on just 3 weeks off, but damn how that girl infected me.
Girl? Yea, she was at that time. Just hit 19 and cute as a button. Her long blonde hair hanging over her shoulders. Her big brown eyes like puddles you could dive in. And that giggle she had, damn it sounded like sirens teasing you on the ocean.
That had been the best 3 week leave I'd ever had in my military career. Unfortunately, I never got back to Australia after that. Oh, Kim and I stayed in touch. We still speak. I've never wanted to be with anyone but her since the day I met her. Unfortunately, she got married about a year after I returned to the jungles.
The prick she married I could of kicked his ass. Growing up in the old South you learn to be a gentleman and how to treat the ladies. But this guy! He totally abused her. And when I tried to get leave to go help her I was refused. But Kim's a strong girl. She stood up for herself and left, taking her two girls with her.
After the jungles I was transferred back to the states to prepare for a new type of conflict. I never got to go to Australia again. The little time I got for leave was spent with family and fishing. Kim and I still talked over the years. She'd been in and out of other relationships the same as I had. For me, none of those relationships felt as right as it did with Kim.