Like most days, this one began with a routine. Every Wednesday, right after breakfast and after his mom and dad left for work, a little boy races out of the house and into the rocky beach to play.
Camet had lived here for as far back as he can remember. He liked living near the sea where he could listen to the crashing waves all day and all night. He liked the feel of sand and pebbles on his feet and the peculiar and curious creatures that lived in tiny holes. He had the beach to himself. A 7-year-old boy with a playground as infinite as the sky and the ocean combined.
This particular day however was different. It could have been that the clouds seemed a little more fluffy than usual. It could also be that the waves grew a little taller than the previous days that have come. If you took a ruler and measured it, it'd probably measure to one and a half rulers. But then, it could be that there was a particular change in rhythm in the sea. The beating of the ocean’s heart seemed faster today.
Camet, holding a stick, poked at a large hole in the sand between the gray pebble and a handful of shiny, black ones when he saw something move at the corner of his eye. He stopped and turned towards the movement. About 2 meters from him, it appeared that the seaweed was wriggling, moving. Startled, he hid behind a large rock formation.
Could it be a sealion trapped in the seaweeds? He hasn’t even seen one alive and he felt afraid that it would bite him. Before he could draw any conclusion, a tiny hand reached out from the greens.
A mermaid then? He had read about those from his books.
Curious and intrigued, little Camet walked slowly, carefully, not wanting to scare the creature (whatever it was) away. About a meter closer, he realized he forgot to bring his wooden stick with him and he half-regretted this.
Behind the tangled seaweed, a little girl lay on the rocks naked and exhausted from all the moving. She seemed to be breathing long and heavy breaths in uneven patterns as if she had just learned to breathe air.
Camet hesitated at first, but then he carefully walked closer. Where her tail was supposed to be, there were two little feet. Camet decided that the creature was a little girl and not a mermaid. He was disappointed. He had always wanted to see those creatures on his books.
He observed the little girl, imagining his next move. He didn’t want to scare her away but he also didn’t know what to do. He sat next to her and poked her shoulder. Two blue green ocean eyes opened and startled Camet who almost fell on his back.
She sat up staring at the ocean not noticing the little boy who had woken her up.
“What’s your name?” Camet trembles nervously. He had never seen a little girl nor other people living in the area. He thought his family had owned the entire beach. “D-do you live around here?”
She continued to look at the horizon and seemed to be in deep thought.
“Who are you? What's your name?” this time Camet said the words louder.
She turned her head towards him and Camet saw two round eyes that did not seem to understand his words.
“I’m Camet. What’s yours?”
“I..I don’t have a name. Or I can’t remember. Or I must’ve lost it.”
“Didn’t your mom and dad give you a name? All parents give their kids names. Everybody has one.”
“Mom? Dad? What is a mom? a dad?” she tested the words in her mouth. They felt short and tasty.
“You know,” Camet was struggling to describe what they were. “They’re big kids. They look like you and me but bigger and they live with you at home and make you eat your vegetables even if you don’t want to eat them.”
The little girl stared at Camet, trying to make sense of his words. She then looked back into the ocean.
Camet thought about it for a second before he said “Ocean. That will be your name. I think that sounds about right. Everybody should have a name.”
“Ocean.” repeated the little girl. She liked that word. She liked it very much. It tasted sweet and slightly salty, but in a good way.
“Do you want to play with me?”
Ocean smiled at Camet then shivered a little bit when a cold wind blew between them.
“Oh. You must be cold. Wait here, I’ll get you a shirt.” he ran as fast as he could towards the back door of his house.
When he returned, Ocean was still staring at the horizon deep in thought.
“Here. Wear this. It’s my favorite shirt. Mom gave it to me on my birthday last month. She said it’s from another land across that ocean over there.” He pointed to one side of the horizon where there were faint triangular shapes. “My mom and dad aren’t always at home. They said they had to work so we can keep our home here. I’m not sure what they meant by that though.”
The little girl hugged and ran her fingers on the shirt. It felt smooth and rough at the same time like the sand on her feet. She felt her body grow warmer and this made her smile.
“Glad you like them.” Camet felt good about his actions. “I know a secret place where no one else has been. Not even mom and dad. Do you want to know where it is?”
He grabbed her hand and they raced towards the beach. They went across pools of water big and small, climbed up a big rock and eventually reached a mountain of rocks that shaped upwards.
“This is my hideout. Like batman’s cave, except it’s not really a cave.”
Ocean followed Camet as he went ahead and crawled towards a little opening in the middle of the formation. Inside, it was bigger than she had expected. It looked like a cave except instead of a roof, this one opened to the sky.
“You can’t tell anybody about this ok? Not even my mom and dad. They wouldn’t let me come here if they knew.”
Ocean nodded and smiled at Camet.
“Look,” Camet pointed towards the sky above them. “Right now, all you can see are clouds and the blue sky. But I sometimes go here at night and look at the stars when my parents are asleep. My mom says I was born one evening when the stars shone their brightest in the sky. And when she held me, the stars fell one by one towards the ocean.”
“I don’t have a mom. What’s a mom like?” Ocean asked staring at the rabbit-shaped cloud that moved lazily above them. This one had very pointy, long ears sticking out of its head.
Camet thought about it for a second. “A mom is like the sea in the morning, warm and gentle on your toes. A mom tells you stories in bed and makes you hot chocolate when it’s raining. She buys you shirts so you don’t get cold and she wipes your feet when they get dirty from the mud. My mom used to do all those things for me but she doesn’t anymore. My mom and dad are always busy with work.”
“What’s a dad like? Is he like a mom too?”
“No, a dad is more like the waves in the sea. He is very strong and is scary sometimes. I am afraid of him when he’s angry. He doesn’t like it when I do not sit still or eat my food.”
Ocean tried to imagine Camet’s words as accurately as she could. There are several pictures in her head but she wanted to see them with her own eyes.
“Parents are nice but they always fight. They do that a lot. They put me in my room and close the door while they shout at each other. They think I’m not listening but I hear everything.”
“What do they fight about?”
“Money?” Ocean looked perplexed. So many words she could not make sense of.
“It’s just a piece of paper that has drawings in it.”
“Why would they fight about paper?”
“I don’t know.” Camet shifted his view towards the rock formation on his left. “Mom says it’s for me but they never let me have any of it. I don’t want it anyway. It’s just paper. I’d rather have crabs and sand castles and rocks and shells.”
Ocean didn’t really understand what money was but she agreed that crabs and sand castles and rocks and shells were better than anything.
They were both silent for awhile watching the clouds above them. A bird-shaped cloud floated in the blue sky and Ocean closed her eyes and drifted to sleep. When she woke up, the sky had transformed into orange.
“Mom and dad will be here any minute. I need to go back home. I’ll bring you some food later. You could stay here for now.”
When Camet left, Ocean decided to follow him secretly. She was curious what a mom and a dad looked like. She imagined two giants with big hands and large feet. She wanted to know what money was and why they were fighting about it a lot.
Ocean rubbed her hands to remove the sand on her hands and legs and shook the ones on hair. Then she quickly crawled out of the secret place. Camet was now a few meters away and he had not noticed her following him at all.
The house looked big in Ocean’s eyes. They were nothing like the secret place that Camet had shown her. It had a roof and thick walls and the holes had warm light coming from it. She looked inside one of the holes. It looked very warm inside.
“Camet, we’re home. Come and have dinner with me and dad” A voice startled Ocean and she quickly ducked from the window.
“Ok mom, I’m coming.”
Mom. This was what a mom sounds like? Warm and gentle like the sea in the morning. Ocean peeked at the window once more. She saw two figures sitting in the dining room. One had a soft face and long legs which reminded Ocean of jellyfish. One looked strong and hard like a rock. This was Camet’s dad. He didn’t say much when Camet arrived inside the room.
He had changed into a cleaner shirt and washed his face with soap and water. Mom smiled at him.
“Camet, what happened to your hand?” the mom rushed to his side and inspected his palm. There were bruises and cuts.
“I fell outside.” Camet looked at his father nervously who now looked at him with strong intimidating eyes.
“Oh dear, we better clean those wounds before you get infected.” Ocean looked at the mom’s face who now seemed anxious and worried. She tilted her head sideways wondering what she’s going to do next.
She grabbed a bottle and tissue on one side of the room then rubbed something in his hand. Afterwards, she kissed them and hugged little Camet.
“Mom.” Ocean repeated the words. She felt warm inside.
Camet still looked at his father uneasily but he quickly became relieved when he didn’t shout at him.
“Let’s eat.” was all he said gesturing towards the hot meal on the table. Camet and mom went to their seats and started eating.
“Camet, be careful next time.” Dad says in a stern but caring voice. Camet looked at his plate and gobbled the food whole like a good boy. He even ate his beans and carrots.
When it was time to sleep, Camet’s mom read him a story about children from the moon. Ocean moved to the next window and listened to the whole story. It made her happy to hear a story for the first time. When Camet seemed asleep, his dad went in the room and rubbed his forehead. Then he kissed him and whispered “Goodnight son.”
Ocean closed her eyes and imagined a mom and a dad of her own.
When she opened her eyes, she saw the ocean glimmer. The sky turned from orange to dark blue. She looked at the stars that seemed to be sliding towards the ocean.
She stood up and walked towards the shore. “Mom, Dad.” She dipped her feet on the water and it felt warm and gentle and sweet. The waves even greeted her, hugging her knees. She slowly walked forward, step by step. Until eventually, she disappeared into the Ocean.