A brilliant Cottesloe morning.
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Seagulls wail above the sound of waves sloshing on the sand. Bright light streaks into through the half-opened venetian blinds.
It's my birthday. My dream was strange, filled with weird expectation.
Joggers and the power-walkers are out early on the walking path on top of the cliff, moving on a stage in front of a placid blue-green sea. Dog-walkers and bicyclists join them in the usual Saturday morning ritual. No work today.
No time to waste. After breakfast, I stride out early, cool sea air filling my chest, the wide blue sky lifting me out of myself. My feet take me automatically on the usual walking route which brings me down from the path above to the beach.
Left or right?
Right, says my nose. Ahead of me Cottesloe Beach, the most pleasant one in Perth, stretches on and on towards the distant haze of more beach houses, a welcomed space for city folks to come to be free for a few hours.
Soon I am passing through the bodies sprawled on the sand, some already oily and reddish-brown even this early in the day. I slow down to take my time. There is a bounty of sensuous flesh on display that the inadequate bits of swimwear struggle to contain.
Italian picnickers are already spreading out early lunches on tables on the grass in the shade of the tall upright Norfolk pines. Their chatter floats over with the clinks of wineglass and even the screeching of the gulls. La dolce vita, Australian-weekend style.
Past the big surf life-saving club and the beach is suddenly empty. My feet touch the cold surf but sunlight is hot on my face. I usually would have worn my swimwear for a swim half way through my walk.
I sense that they have arrived.
I turn around.
Surely I am still in the dream of last night.
They stand in front of me, smiling. The taller one is my dad and next to him stands my stepfather Hassan, both older and greyer than their photos in the family albums
Both men laugh at my surprise. Eventually I recover enough composure to wai my father, bending low, and he returns it. Hassan then gives me his usual bear hug, so tight that it still leaves you out of breath afterwards. We stand looking at each other, giving time for the absent years to merge together into the present surreal moment.
Both men hold my hands on either side and we stroll along the beach toward the morning sun. Hassan wears shorts and his usual short-sleeved Indonesian batik shirt with an Indian collar. Pa is in cream pants and shirt that I remember. They are both bare-footed for the occasion.
This is not possible. Yesterday I had no father, today I have two.
I can feel Pa moving his hand on to my shoulder. That is not possible also.
"On special days, like Halloween, we people who are no longer here, can visit their loved ones. They choose to show themselves, or not. Mostly they don�t, not wanting people to wet their pants," says Hassan with a laugh. "We knew you wouldn't do that."
His voice is as I remember, but more frail, but his booming laugh is still loud over the surf.
"You both are looking well," I say feebly, feeling strange, to say the least, about talking to them at all.
"We get by, you know, don't we Amnuay," says Hassan to Pa.
"Yes we do," Pa says in English, quietly.
"Voila un cafe," says Hassan, pointing to the restaurant perched on top of the sand dunes. "Let's go there. I am hungry."
At the cafe, Hassan chooses a sunny table in the corner with a spectacular view of the beach. He moved us there from another table, for the better outlook. I remember that he always had the last say in where we sat, or where we went.
We order coffee and croissants all round. Hassan quickly finishes his and asks for more.
A question about how "people who are not here" can eat one croissant, let alone order another, comes to mind.
"Your mother is well I see," he says, with a blissful smile on his face at her memory.
"Yes, she is. Not so mobile now but still very active," I say.
"Yes, that's Yoenyaw," says Hassan. "We know that, don't we, Amnuay."
"We had a good fight for her, didn't we�," says Hassan. Both of them put up their fists and shadow box each other, Pa scoring a gentle direct hit on Hassan's big Jewish nose and again in his paunchy stomach.
"The best man won, of course."
"Who are you kidding," says my father.
"No, you're right. We are only men. Women know who they want," says Hassan.
They can each write a book about what they have learned from the women in their lives and it would be instructive reading.
"What about you, Nui?" asks Hassan, looking directly at me. "You have not done much with your life."
"Er, true, I guess," I say.
"Keep writing. You are good at that, maybe more so than at your art. But never stop trying at both," says Hassan, as to the point as always.
"But above all, use all your talents to achieve fulfillment and money. It's a rich and varied world so be part of it as much as you can. Life is precious. Come out of your shell. The world won't bite your head off."
I am never too sure about that and whether it's worth the effort.
"I regret very much my life being shortened by smoking and overwork. I only did less than half of what I could have done," says Hassan. "Was it true for you too, Amnuay?"
"Yes, in a way. But I wasn't driven by work as you were. But I very much regret not knowing my children more, including you, Nui, and to have lived longer in the world," says Pa.
After his marriage with my mother ended when I and my two sisters were young, Pa remarried and had another son before he died early of kidney failure. My mother married Hassan, a Swiss architect, and raised five more children.
We are sitting with our hands joined on top of the table. I feel a connecting cord coming through one hand and leaving from the other. We close our eyes, oblivious to other people around us.
We find a shaded bench in the park and sit there side by side, looking at the beach and the bright pale blue sea. I notice my father eyes following a couple of women bathers as they walk, swaying delectably, to and from the thundering surf.
He always had an eye for female beauty and he has passed that on to me. He smiles knowingly at my thoughts.
"Yes, yes," he says, barely heard above the sea sounds. "That's what I miss too, a lot." I wonder if the angels were to his liking and in which way. But I don't ask.
There is much to share but we do it without speaking very much all afternoon. Their glowing presence empowers me to relive moments of my life and look forward to the years to come.
A deep love fills all the silent minutes and hours, which swept by like the sea breeze now rolling sand among the grass.
"It will be sunset soon," Hassan said, looking at his watch, always a Swiss. �We don�t have to be back until midnight but I have other people to visit. And Amnual has too. We came for your birthday."
Then, hand in hand with me in the middle again, we cross the road back to the beach where we walk to a deserted part and sat behind some boulders.
As the last rays of sunlight fade on the purple horizon, I wai Pa who puts the palm of his hand on my head and keeps it there for the longest moment. I hug Hassan at the same time, feeling that the three of us are one, today and always.
We walk again together where the sea laps the sand and I look up at the new stars. My birthday is coming to an end. When I glance back, the dark beach is empty.
But there are fresh footsteps in the sand.