There was a picture hanging in the main bathroom of my mother’s house – a dark stone, large and rough, surrounded by a roaring sea. Or at least that’s how I see it when I try to conjure it now. I haven’t looked at the photo in some time, preferring instead to imagine that the rock remains fearsome and giant, just as it was when I first heard of it.
The story is loose in my brain with pieces slipping in and out over the years, clicking into place at the strangest of times. I think the details rearrange themselves depending on who’s reconstructing that day on the beach, but key players stay the same: Hawaii, the rock, a sudden wave. My parents stood on the rock until they didn’t, until the ocean had pulled them so far out that my father didn’t think they could make it back. With a memory not quite my own, I can almost taste the sting of salt water against my tongue. The sea had looked calm before they swam out, hadn’t it – had seemed safe and welcoming until it wasn’t. It snatched them from the rock, as if trying to steal them away entirely.
And then there is a lapse in the story, a sudden void, and my parents are on the shore. Exhausted, scared, but alive.
I don’t know which of them decided that they should have a picture of the rock and sea, but it hung in the bathroom for longer than a decade. The picture is gone now. I don’t even know which island they visited or anything else that transpired on that trip. Only that my parents could’ve died, survived, and took a picture of the thing that could’ve killed them. As I prepare for my first trip to the island, I find myself lingering on the story more and more – wondering which details I have wrong and how the story will change after I’ve bathed in the same waters that nearly swallowed our family before it truly began.