- Vol. 04
- Chapter 12
The Tale of the Distant Bather
Am I waiting for my lover? No. For I came here alone. Once I might have quaked at the thought. Once, you told me the why of the sunrise, explained away the stars. Now, I watch the morning for its crowning, not its science. I’m sitting through the boil of waking day, watching the puce-plum cauldron of fizzing reds, the blatant victory of the white-hot, rising disc over the kings of sludgy night.
Dawn, when the sea air goosed its dead fingers is past. My nipples stood to the chill, cool as cod eyes, I wore a pimpled coat of urchin lumps. Worth it to have crept away, left you slumbering off the rum in a toss of sheets, worth it to shed the skin of your clumsy need, your fumbling nudge.
My reward is heat – from blue with early cold, to blessed with yellow rays, I let myself uncover. Show the bits that have me curdle at the mirror, have me cover in disgust. Yes, I am changed. Yes, I am blemish and bulk but even as the whale wears blubber and scratch-marks, still it remains beautiful in the ocean, still it sings. You would shy at my nakedness. You would remember when I was thin. The sun bites into the sensitive scars left by my carrying of our son – pale and sore against the bloom of tan, unaccustomed to this bare display,
The Tale of the Distant BatherI will think of them as ripples along the sand. The sting will pass.
My face stays hidden, under the raggedy fronds round the brim of this old straw hat you always hated. Makes you look old. Makes you look mad. Darling, I never wore it for you – I wore it for its smell of salt, of fish-waft freshness. Wore it for the memories, stored beneath its dome. Some fusty spots of mould. Its childish ribbon of bowed gingham, faded.
You will be up for a late lunch now, I guess. Wondering where I am? Stuffed, you will recline – nod off again. Maybe later, wander along the cliff top. Look down – see someone, small as a chip of grit before the green-blue swoop of ocean. You’ll predict in the shortest while the wet will reach whoever this is. You’ll wish your wife had such a taste for adventure. When you see me later, the talk will be of tide tables, how there was this woman, playing a game of chicken with the waves. I will pack this secret as I pack the scrabbled shells – take it home, listen to the sound of it, hushhhhhhh inside my head.
Hushhhhhhh like the sound of the wind, curling the guts of a whelk. Hushhhhhhh like the kissing of shore and water. Hushhhhhhh like the fall from the tap. I brought this back with me. I will know who I am.