This is my earliest memory. Or perhaps a premonition.
I'm three years old. I'm in the ocean surrounded by family. The sun bakes my papi's shoulders and I cool them with my wet arms as he holds me in the shallow waters of Crash Boat beach. Güeli, my grandmother, is wearing her cat eyeglasses because without them she can't look out for jellyfish. I see her squinting and can't tell whether she's happy or mad. Mami is definitely happy in the water. Much happier than on land. I like to think she's a mermaid and comes here at night while we're all asleep, and that's why she's so tired during the day. My brothers have taken a break from fighting. At least for these few minutes they, in a circle of family members, wait for Papi to lift me up and announce my next destination.
"Go to Jorge!" Papi says, and lets go of me.
I push the water away from my face, head down, and aim straight for the sandy floor. A curtain of sand rises in front of me. My brothers are switching places. I hear everything down here, but in slow motion. Down here, laughter seems to last forever. Legs begin to appear, some shorter, some thicker. I'm looking for my brother Jorge's pale legs, but can't tell dark from light. I take a chance and touch them. Two large hands scoop me up. It's Papi. I've come back to where I started.
Crash Boat Beach
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico