My father was often solitary - a dark and fathomless man. He seemed to prefer solitude to people - he often sailed out alone, and stayed there deep into the night. I sometimes wondered if he didn’t like me - but then, he never frowned at me much either. Sometimes I’d get a word from him, or a salted wrinkle in the corner of his mouth, and I’d almost believe I could see him, like a dark silhouette rising from water. But then the moment would pass, the shadow would descend back to the depths, and I’d be left unsure if I’d seen anything at all.
I don’t know what made that one night different from any other. But I remember waking, my shoulder drifting in the gentle rock of his hand.
“I want you to see this,” he said. “Get your shoes.”
I nodded, intrigued by the reverence in his voice, by the anomaly of his interest in me.
He said nothing else as we left the house. . Even outside we stayed silent, though I knew no one could possibly overhear us. We just walked. Walked and walked until the sidewalks that became boardwalks became beach. The landscapes all but melted together in the night. The ocean was so dark, that looking at it was just like closing your eyes.
Eventually we reached the dock where the boat was kept. My father freed the stern lines while I untied the bow. I flipped on the dim cabin lamps and he revved up the engine. We seemed to float on darkness instead of water. We sailed out and out. It wasn’t until the isolation was absolute, like the deepest, oldest cave, that my father finally spoke again.
“New moon,” he said, “is the only time you see them. Shy creatures, moonfish. Hmph. You’ve never seen moonfish before, yeah?”
I shook my head. No, I hadn’t. My father nodded and cut the engine, and I turned out the lights. The silence we created was glassy, smooth and hard. My father found my shoulder and guided me to the edge. He took my finger and pointed it towards the depths. At first, I couldn’t even see water, not in that darkness. Then, following the finger, I saw faint flickers I was sure I imagined: phosphorescent sparks, flash negative-rainbows, twinkling on the tips of waves. I tried to blink them away, but instead they caught like silver-green fire, spreading and darting beneath us in great schools, churning and alive. One flashed from the brine with a flicker of lightning spray, and I gaped as it hung above us in a streaking corona, every droplet off its scales sparkling, luminous.
The next day my father was his taciturn self again. He made no mention of our midnight voyage. When he goes out on his boat from time to time, he still prefers to go alone. He’s a solitary man, my father, and serious, so if you asked he might even tell you to stop chasing my fancies, that I put too much stock in fish-tales and dreams. And it’s true that when we talk, he stays silent on the subject of moonfish. But sometimes - just sometimes I see him smile, and then it darts across his face like a flash of scales.
The ocean too, is dark and silent, but does that mean it holds no wonders?
Edited by Ariel Barreras