Waves grow with menace as they rumble to shore. Despite their vigor, each one flattens and froths when it arrives. They kiss my bare feet meekly but never stop coming. It reminds me of the pain and self doubt I’ve suffered the last few years—the gnawing in my stomach that my twenties have been a waste, and the way I’ve kept pushing for the shores of my uncertain future, regardless.

I’ve been twenty-nine years of waves.

The sun climbs through the cloudy haze on the horizon, and I kneel to take another photograph. I’m focusing my lens on the sky, the colors blossoming out of the twilight, and their reflections on the water. There is a gratification in the sound of the shutter, a ritualistic calm in the clicking of the aperture as I balance the camera’s eye. For a moment, I lose myself in a grade school memory.

    “Mrs. Steinmetz, I have a question.”

    “Go ahead, Angel.”

    “What’s the difference between sunrise and sunset?”

    My principal smiles, her face raisined with age.    

    “Well,” she says, “what happens when the sun sets? It gets…”

    “Darker and darker,” I say. 

    “And when the sun rises, it gets…”

    “Brighter and brighter.”

    “There you go; you’ve answered your own question.”

Dawn spreads across the beach, and I take hundreds of photographs. I will carry on until my memory is full and, if I’m lucky, I’ll end up with one good shot. The sun glows behind the haze, slowly rising. From moment to moment it appears still, but after an hour and a half here, with my slacks rolled up and my feet crusting with sand, I see how far it has come. Our light towers over the ocean, painting the sky in its wake. Every wave is illuminated, and I begin to see that there’s much more to it.