Every morning before school, Ben leapt out of bed, raced across the cool stone floor of his mother's little bungalow, past her coffee cup growing cold on the table--she always went walking early--and down his mother's little driveway (past the beautiful neighbor's bungalow, also a widow but young and with round eyes that made Ben look away) to the beach. Some mornings his mother left cookies out for him. Some mornings there was nothing there, not even her coffee. "You must know Ben," she always said, "that everyone is their own person, even me, and sometimes people rise early and walk off into the world." She would then give him an enormous hug.
Ben thought this was like her other motherly threats, like when she threatened to lay down and weep because he hadn't taken out the trash or when she said that the world was coming to an end because it was sprinkling for an hour in early October. Only years later did he realize that she meant him. He would be the one who got up, walked out that blue door, and never came home.
They lived on the southwest corner of the island, decades before Kalo Lavati was developed. Their little house would probably be worth millions today. Carolina, his mother, moved away long ago. And Ben, just as she predicted, got up early one day and walked off into the world. But long before he ever dreamed he would end up in America at some huge corporation, running for his life, he would walk down to the empty beach (except for a few fishermen) and he would stare out at the rocks that sat two kilometers off shore.
"Don't you dare try and swim to those rocks today," his mother would say. "If you drown I will tear my heart out and my eyes and you wouldn't want to do that to your poor mother now would you?"
"No, mama," he always said. And then he raced down to the water and started swimming.
It always looked closer than it was, so when he was only one-hundred meters out, he was sure he was half way there. He would swim until his muscles gave out, then float on his back in the salt-thick water until he had enough energy to slowly paddle back.
"Someday I will make it," he said to the beautiful widow next door, whispering so she could not hear him. On days when he hiked out to the secret beach with the long wooden steps leading down the cliff--at least three of the steps were broken and he always thought he might find some adventurous tourist or child fallen to their death--he would end his day by climbing up to the top of the rocks to stare out at that outcropping that he could only ever reach with his eye.
Every evening, after trying to reach that rock and then spending the rest of the day listening to the fishermen, climbing on the rocks, and dreaming and whatever else it is that young boys do for so long in endless sunshine, he raced back.
Looking back, it's hard for him to believe that he spent the entire day at the beach. There is something a child knows that an adult can only dream about. We all talk about going on vacation, spending all day on the beach, but months and months and years. What was it I did there for all those hours, he wonders. How could nothing but sun make me so happy?