We took the cliff walk, a family of five, hierarchy evident in our heights. I held my father’s hand. He was speaking of the barren land, making some allusion to the difficulty of farming such poor soil and how sea salt thwarted agriculture. My father knew these things, and much more besides. I was looking towards the lighthouse, a construction that destructed the natural setting, yet strangely complimented it with the suitability of its function. An harmonious heteroclite.
I loved these annual seaside holidays when he was with us more often. He talked and laughed a lot. My father told me that we were now standing in “the closest Parish to America” and I laughed at the silliness of it. My father not only knew things, but he knew how to say them. America still far away but not as distant.
As I strained my eyes to the horizon in what I thought to be the direction of New York, my father released my hand. I turned and saw him leaping at the cliff edge with his arms outstretched, upwards and outwards.
I can remember how I felt. My skin tingled. It started in my cheeks, hesitated there – or maybe time stopped – then shrouded me with an alacrity that spent my breath. Now without air, then dizzy, I grew smaller until I diminished onto the coarse grass, numb. Was this fact or phantasm? Which would I decide before I looked up?
My father retrieved his hat from the Atlantic wind and casually replaced it on his head.