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Caitlin Crawshaw: Unwrapped

Caitlin Crawshaw: Unwrapped

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Crawshaw recounts a moment between Christmas and loss @ Carte Blanche.

On a Durban beach, hundreds of translucent orbs carrying long blue cords lay shrivelling in the sun. Gail pulls me aside before I can step down on a stinger; I’ve mistaken them for bits of plastic wrap.

A lifeguard in red trunks tells us that swimming now is dangerous, in spite of the crowd bobbing in the water. We should come back at 5pm, when the tide is lower and maybe (if we are lucky) the winds will have shifted, carrying the jellyfish away.

But this is our one and only chance to see the beach; we leave for Canada in two days. “You have to dip your toes in the Indian Ocean at least once,” insists my father.

So we wade into the water, with the masses. Some are wearing swimming shirts, but others are in t-shirts and pants. Only a handful are swimming in trunks and bathing suits. I stare at the water, vigilant. I’m so cautious that I hardly feel the warm salty froth, tickling me between my toes and nudging the hairs at the bottom of my calf, where I neglected to shave.

I think I see one – and jump back, out of the tide’s reach. “Let’s sit on the beach,” Gail offers. “It’s not worth the risk.” We find a spot and I pull out some tiny, white towels from a plastic Checkers bag. I really ought to have picked better towels from the linen closet at Dad’s house. The towel barely covers my bum.

But the sand is the right temperature, and I dig my toes into the grit as we look out in silence at the ocean and the crowds. Mothers with tiny children wear sparkling, silky saris that they have to hold up, just out of the current’s reach. Cloaked Muslim women, all in black, let their robes carry in the breeze. Zulu women in church hats laugh and tease each other.

All watch the children, who giggle at the same pitch as the water laps at their tiny toes. I think, no child of mine would be in that water. Just eight weeks along, I hold my belly, protectively.
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