With the journal held close to her chest, she took a deep breath in as if she were trying to burst her lungs with air. She exhaled and opened her eyes slowly, and saw what she had only seen in pictures far too faded with age. The ocean ranged in multiple shades of tropical green and blue, and the trees stood tall with palms facing down. The mountains looked like stones covered in moss, and the sand was as soft as powder. For most of Luna's life, Thailand was a dream, though so much of it ran through her veins. It was only ever described in her father’s journal; the one she continued to hold close to her chest.
April 24, 1989
The sky was the color of salmon as the sun was setting in the west, to home, to America. Lieutenant Putman would have wrung my neck with my tie had he seen my uniform in disarray and dinged with the gray-ish brown clay made from sand and salt water. It's been fourteen weeks since I'd been on land, so what the hell, getting a little messy in some sand was well deserved. Besides, she's worth it. A breeze from the east swept over us and the chill in the air had hit suddenly. I saw the tiny black hairs on her pale brown arms rise at a tension. Man did I struggle to get my arms free, but somehow I managed to get out of my shirt, and placed it around her shoulders. Her soft and gentle hand lightly went over the three striped insignia on the left sleeve, indicating my rank as a seaman. She looked at me with her huge dark brown eyes, eyes that communicated everything our languages couldn't. I'd truly come a long way from the streets of Harlem. The waves from the ocean crashed and pulled back at our feet, and the sky’s salmon color was slowly being replaced by the darkness of the night. She leaned in closer and I followed her motion. A rush of blood warmed my body. We kissed. Nothing was as exhilarating, and as liberating as the kiss I shared with her. It was in that moment I knew that I wanted her for myself. She’s all that matters now. Beautiful Malai.
Luna closed the worn tan leather journal and fastened the thin remains of its latch tight together. When she was around thirteen years old, her parents came to Thailand in celebration of their fifteen year wedding anniversary, and promised they’d take a family trip the following summer. A wave of disappointment rose suddenly in the pit of Luna’s stomach at the thought of that promise never happening. Her body began to sway like the waves as if she was being pulled by the hypnotizing tides. Her gazed was fixed on the water only a few feet away, but her huge dark brown eyes stared out into eternity.
A single tear streamed down Luna’s right cheek; breaking her stare, and momentarily ceasing the trance she was slipping into. She plopped down on a plastic woven fuchsia and mint green striped beach chair, and cringed at the sight of about twenty more brightly colored chairs surrounding her. Luna thought to move her chair either further towards the water or back towards the concrete path towards the busy street. She wanted to separate herself from the plastic sea of pink and green, but instead she sat solemnly, letting her decision to move anywhere drift away with the tides.
The sky was radiant with a hue of blue so rich, it reminded Luna of the feathers belonging to a blue jay. Luna laid on the beach chair staring at the clouds as they floated by. Her body became fully relaxed as her breaths slowed and deepened. The clouds were white as snow and came in different abstract shapes and sizes. Luna’s eyes became heavy, and began a pattern of their own; lowering midway and popping open again. Then clouds began to form more distinct shapes. One looked like a flower, another a boat. She felt light. Another cloud looked like a dog, while two more clouds looked like fish. The sound of the tides splashing in became more audible the moment Luna thought of fish. Suddenly, screams blared out all across the beach. Luna popped up from the waist and was met with the tides rolling in faster and farther up the beach.
The beach chair Luna was sitting on was forced so far back it almost met the concrete sidewalk that bordered the perimeter of the beach. Others around her scrambled to gain footing in the water that was once only sand. The fuchsia and mint green beach chairs collided with each other in all directions, and quickly began to be sucked back in with the tides. Luna’s chair was also being sucked back rapidly, and she quickly rolled off, keeping her father’s journal tucked under her left arm. She gratefully felt the thick, wet sand underneath her, and stumbled to regain her footing.
Screams in Thai filled the air with confusion and panic, and Luna continued to struggle on to her feet. The sand felt like rope holding her down as she dug her hands deep into the grains as though the bottom of the beach would somehow become tangible to her grip. Her father’s journal had slipped from her underarm, but she had managed to keep a hand on it, and used it as a tool to help her up. The pages would be ruined she knew, but she wouldn’t let it go. Instead, Luna dug the journal deep like an anchor and rose to her feet pulling the journal back up to her chest. She stumbled, but with her available hand she reached for every beach chair, and anything else that was being sucked back to the ocean, as a crutch to get her out of the sand and onto the street.
Luna hadn’t realized how far back she had been pulled, but she could see the concrete path and the street just beyond it only a few feet away. There was a man standing in the street surrounded by honking cars, and people screaming and running passed him. His skin was pale, and he had burnt red hair. His shorts were horizontally striped navy blue, red, and white, and his shirt was a denim blue with palm trees all over. He had a black hand held camera that had a small screen flapped opened on the right side of it. The man's gaze was fixed on the small screen with his mouth hung open. As Luna reached the concrete path, she saw the odd man and quickly spun around to see what had paralyzed him. A wave the size of a two story house crashed onto the shore, and the tides were speeding in like a freight train.
Luna began to run towards the colorful buildings that were in front of her, but the sudden impact of the violent waves smashed into her back like a ton of bricks, arching her entire body forward, and forming the letter “c” with her limbs behind her. Her father’s journal had shot from under her arm and was carried away. She was tossed like a rag doll, then painfully collided onto a car that was pushed up against a building. As the water rushed through, Luna saw a multitude of debris. Trees and light poles, stop signs and street signs, beach stands, umbrellas, banana boats, and the racks that held the banana boats, and the fuchsia and mint green beach chairs, and faces. She saw young faces and old faces, tourist faces and native faces, scared faces and dead faces, and then she saw her parents’ faces.
“Mom! Dad!” Luna screamed. She pushed herself off of the car to be carried by the current with her parents. She met her parents embrace. The family collided onto another car too small to hold them all. Luna held on to the roof of the car with both arms; one arm overlapping her father’s, while his other arm held his wife close by the waist.
“Luna it’s time to let go.” Her father said.
“Let go? What do you mean? No! I won't lose you again!”
“Luna it’s time to let go.” he repeated softly.
“No! Please no!”
“Luna.” her mother said. No one spoke her name like her mother did. Her hands cupped her daughter’s wet face, and their huge dark brown eyes met.
“It is time to let go. You cannot live in this place. You cannot live in the past. You were where you needed to be. We were here."
Luna looked deeply into her mother's eyes, and then her father's.
"Daughter. " her mother said in Thai. "You live holding on to our lives, but you forget to live your own."
Tears ran down Luna’s cheeks. She stared at her parents hard. The pain was intense, and it was hard to breathe. With all that she could, Luna pressed her eyes shut. She inhaled deeply and decided to let go. She exhaled.
Luna opened her eyes and sat up on the fuchsia and mint green beach chair. She stared out at the ocean. Her father’s journal was beside her.