Suntan lotion. Coppertone before it had sunscreen in it, when it served no purpose other than to get you brown and smelling good. That’s what his Aunt Silvia’s chest smelled like. It’s where his head was buried while he tried not to cry like a baby. There were many reasons for crying lately, either his mom had left, or his dad had come back. This time Kane cried because they were together and fighting hard.
The screen door on his mom’s rented house slammed. He looked up from his aunt's cleavage to watch the still form of his mom standing on the small porch. Mr. Edgar, the guy who owned his mom's house and who lived next door would eventually complain about the slamming door. He’d yell out and ask his mom to go easy on the doors or something like that. Kane knew his mom would bat her eyelashes and act surprised when she’d asked back, “Did I really do that?”
His mom walked out onto the small square of grass. Grass that she never watered like she’d promised, so Mr. Edgar ended up doing it from over the fence. He’d hold his curved hose over the top of the short picket like a long penis, making sure to cover every square inch of lawn.
Tina, his mom, stood shaking and crying hard, harder than he ever did and he was eight and at the height of his crybaby stage. Kane knew this because his aunt said it all the time, "You know kid, for a eight year old, you sure don't cry much. God knows you didn't get that from your mom."
His dad rushed out, his blond hair shining in the California sun as he stalked past his mom. Kane half expected his mom's hair to blow when his dad sped past her, just like he'd seen in cartoons. Roy, his dad didn't stop walking or turn to look at his mom when he yelled, “If you believe I’m screwing Monica Gomez ....go the fuck head!” The fight had begun and ended so fast he’d not gotten used to his dad being back.
It didn't matter what his dad said, Kane knew his dad was lying. He’d seen him, his swim trunks down under his bare white ass, pumping on top of Mrs. Gomez like he did when he did push ups, but faster. They'd been on the yellow strappy lawn chair in the backyard. The faded yellow lawn chair with the one loose strap; frayed and dangling on the concrete next to Mrs. Gomez’s rumpled clothes, the strap the exact same yellow-green as the big flowers on the dress or skirt or whatever it was she wasn’t wearing.
What his dad had been doing to Mrs. Gomez was called screwing. Fucking, sex, screwing. An older boy at his school had told him so.
His mom was no better, she had boyfriends his dad didn’t know about, guys he’d seen her kissing. But she was the hurt one now, and she played it up big time. Her blonde hair was getting all frizzy the way she hated it, but it didn’t matter, his dad had left, again.
“Kanie? Let’s go to the beach. What do ya say, huh?” He was still holding in his crying, so he couldn't speak. He nodded his head while looking into his aunt’s green eyes. “I’ll get the boogie boards, okay? Your momma needs alone time.”
They walked down 21st toward the sparkling blue ocean and the light brown colored sand. He felt the wind drying his tears, the ones Silvia hadn’t wiped away. He felt alive now, with his back to his wailing mom and his front headed toward the ocean. Silvia was at his side talking about how awful his dad could be, but not saying as much as he knew she could because after all he was a little boy and little boys should enjoy life every now and then. This was still before meeting his lifelong friend Action Jackson and getting into surfing.
His aunt held both their boards and some towels under one arm keeping the other hand free in case he felt a need to hold it. She took him all the way to the edge of the ocean where the sand was hard and wet, telling him about the waves and how perfect they looked for a little guy like him. It was what she always said, but the crashing waves were so loud it was hard to hear. She let go of his hand, slipped out of her dress revealing the red bikini with the little pink seahorses on it, before handing him his board; the rest he knew.
The waves weren’t very big but the water was strong and knocked him around like a bully. He held on to his board no matter what, even if it turned him onto his back so he faced the faced the sky with the board above him, but under water.
Sometimes he hit sand on the bottom, sometimes the water dragged him over it, scraping his skin like sandpaper or knocking him against rocks, sometimes he cut his hands and feet, but it didn’t matter. He needed to win this war with the water since winning anything with his dad or his mom was impossible.
There was hope and achievement in the water, and it would guide his life in ways he couldn’t begin to imagine.
When Kane came out of the ocean, he knew his aunt would be there with a towel to dry him, asking if he didn’t just love it, didn’t just love the ocean, love the waves and the feel of riding them like dolphins did, and he’d smile and sit, letting the sun dry his skin, waiting patiently until she said it was okay to go back out again.