The beach was filled with people walking on the sand. In the hands of each person was a small wooden boat with a paper cube. Children ran in and out of the water, splashing each other, while their parents warned them not to break anybody’s lantern.
“It’s crowded,” she said, as we walked down the beach, looking for a place to lay our towel. We carried our shoes.
“See anyone you know?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in my life.”
“It nice when they all let their lanterns go.”
I looked at the footprints in the sand and watched the ocean erase the ones within reach.
“There’s a spot.”
I spread the towel. The water reflected the sun.
We sat on the sand as row after row of people waded into the water in their swim trunks, placing their lanterns and wooden boats down and with a gentle push, sending them to sea. Like a fleet of light, the lanterns sailed toward the disappearing sun. The boats cut their way through the water, leaving ripples in their wake. And the lanterns drifted.
“This is nice.”
Her hair blew in front of my face. It smelled like the sea. Another row of well-wishers cast away their lanterns.
A man came up to us with a lantern and a boat in his hands and asked us if we wanted to launch it.
I turned to her. She smiled. “Sure, we’ll do that.”
The man handed us the boat and lantern and told us to go in with the next row.
We got in line. A woman came down the row with a match, lighting each lantern. When she got to us, she said, “That’s a beautiful lantern.”
When everyone’s lantern had been lit, we stepped into the water. The water was cold and seeped through my rolled up jeans, but that didn’t matter. We waded in until we were waist deep, our feet sunken in the sand below. The people around us lowered their lanterns. A woman reached into a plastic bag and began to strew purple and white hibiscus petals. Each petal fell pendulum-like until it touched the water and floated among the bobbing lights.
Together we placed our lantern in the water.
Her hair floated on the wind like a piece of driftwood in the sea.