A dizzying mixture of salt and chlorine stings my nose. I blink back tears as water cascades down my face, the rough concrete catching on my swimsuit as I try to squirm away. I’m sitting up to my stomach in water. The only child in the desolate hotel kiddie pool as my mom looks on from the side. Her large pink-tinged sunglasses block her expression.

She focuses on coating her bronze skin in a thick layer of suntan oil that smells like coconut and sun. I wrinkle my nose at the pungent odor and dump another bucket of water over my head, watching the world come in and out of focus as the water flows down my face and back into the pool. I can hear the distant laughter of children just over the concrete fence, muffled by the waves of the Atlantic as they crash to the sand.

I squeal in delight as my white shovel splashes water into the air. The sounds of my happiness drown out the noise from behind the fence. The empty space beside my mom is large. His absence hangs heavy in the air.


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