“What is his name?” she asked.
There were three black and white photographs on the wall, hung one above the other, of a dark-haired boy climbing a ladder, his back to the photographer. In the bottom photograph, he was ascending the first step of the ladder, with one foot on the sandy ground and the other on the wooden step. In the middle photograph, he was half way up the ladder, and in the last one, he was on the top.
She walked to the photographs and stopped right in front of them, moved her eyes from the bottom one to the top, examining them. The climbing boy was placed in the middle of each photograph. He was 18 or 19, maybe 20. It was hard to tell. It must have been a cold day. The boy was wearing a dark sweater, and a darker pair of pants. The ladder led to a lifeguard’s weathered wooden bench on an empty beach, pale gray sand and endless sea. She recognized the sea and the sand.
The photographs had been taken at a beach on the
Caspian Sea, and it must’ve been either late fall or early winter. Roya knew the Caspian Sea better than any other body of water on earth; it was where she had learned to swim. Her mother was an avid swimmer who for days had held her, carried her, “kick your legs,” smiled at her, “breathe deeply,” dunked her, pulled her up, “stroke your arms,” and finally let her go. It had been the best feeling in the world when she swam without her help, one stroke behind. Roya vividly remembered her mother’s long dark hair as it soaked in the sea and shimmered in the sunshine.
Roya studied the boy, the back of his hair, his broad shoulders, and gazed at the frame of his body, his strong grip on the wooden rungs. She didn’t know the boy, but felt a strong attachment to the photographs.