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Time off

The loose, dry sand is hot. Everyone else runs, but you don't as you pick
your way carefully through, looking just in front of your feet because
you've left your glasses back at your chair. You reach the high tide line,
and the sand is cooler. Bearable. Coarser, too, from the bits of shell
waiting to become fine sand. The sun burns down on your skin.

The water is cooler than you expect, but still warm. Not bathwater-warm
like Guam, certainly not shivering-cold like San Diego. Perfectly
comfortable. You walk out, and your feet feel the ridges in the
sand--little models of the rolling swells moving slowly to the shore. You
keep walking--knee-deep, waist-deep, chest-deep--until you're barely
touching the bottom, and the swells lift you off your feet.

You look around, and see only a few people in the water. A small island
lies to your left, and the white shoreline curves to your right. Trees line
the shore in front of you--evergreens and palms. One tree is not like the
others; it angles at the top to point at a 45 degree angle, instead of
straight at the sky like the others. You can't see your ship at all, and
the thought pleases you. You lay back and float, surprised at how easy it
is. White clouds float overhead in a deep blue sky. You close your eyes
against the sun.

Peaceful--until the buddy you had to sign off the ship with splashes you,
and you, being the typical sailor, offer to kick his ass if he does it
again. He laughs and swims away like a fish, reminding you of your daughter
and how much time she spends underwater. You know she'd like it here, but
you'll never bring her to this part of Malaysia.

You float again, and you only hear a few things: your own breathing,
sounding harsh and loud. Light, happy splashes of water against your body.
The swells breaking on the beach. And nothing else. The next time you open
your eyes, the colors are strange because your eyes are tired of seeing the
red through your eyelids. You decide that perhaps your face has enough sun,
so you reluctantly make your way back to the beach and up to your shaded
chair. You sprawl comfortably, and pull out your book. You don't even
bother to dry off, because the gentle breeze feels good on your wet skin.

You doze off, thinking that this was one of the best liberty choices you've
made all deployment.

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