The thing about fish being held captive is not what I’m trying to say

The thing about fish being held captive is not what I’m trying to say

ALISON WHITELOCK

 

Start the letter. With something like: Despite the fact I lost and continue to lose my mind I never stopped loving you.

No, fuck that. How about: I love you more today than I did yesterday and less today than I will tomorrow.

Christ, that’s not it either.

How about something like: Before she came I bore no grudges.

Yes.

Before she came––with her Parisian pouts, the bikini that served no real purpose and the used sanitary towels she stuffed into my toilet bin till it was overflowing like i’m the fucking janitor ‘round here––I bore no ill.

Say something about my fear of the ocean.

How it’s true, I would never have gone in if she hadn’t come into my home refusing to speak English with that French way she’d hold her fag high in the air, drawing on it long and hard before pulling it from her perfectly Dior’d mouth with long sweeping gestures like she’s shooing away a mosquito in slow fucking motion. Then there was the ashtray he fashioned for her––a jar lid lined with tin foil, it wouldn’t have bothered me except I asked them both (nicely) not to smoke inside the house.

Ask him why he invited her here.

I tell my friends how two days after her arrival she rearranged my pantry, tidied my fridge. My friends tell me how fortunate I am to have a stranger decide where best to house my macaroni, my cherry bocconcini. When they meet her they exclaim how charming she is – those cheek bones––that flawless skin! Then they rave about the sushi rice she has boiled––ignore the wild caught salmon I have grilled, the chemical free kale I have steamed. Then my chia seed pudding lies neglected, cast aside in favour of the thin crust apple pie she has produced out of *nowhere (my fucking freezer) and okay so her sushi rice was not too bad, but the secret lay in the splash of Japanese vinegar she took from my fucking pantry.

Sixty four long days after her arrival, I put on my swimsuit that’s never seen water – the one with the little skirt that hides a multitude of sins and head to the ocean. He is already out there, bobbing fearlessly beyond the breakers. Gingerly, I make my way towards him and as I go deeper, the little skirt peels away from my thighs, floats up around me like lilies in a pond as waves, gentle as puppy dog tongues lap up against me and I can barely believe I am wading this deep.

Suddenly the tide turned. The wind rode in on its high fucking horse and puppy dog tongues gave way to the white knuckles of bloated waves violent as last orders in a Glasgow pub––each one belting me hard till I was down on the canvas, spluttering, choking and swallowing sand and the ref’s counting me out––and one––and two––and three––

On four I gasp up through the surf, spit the salt from my mouth, scramble to my feet and pray for the bell to bring an end to this brutal round one.

Then suddenly, the high horse the wind rode in on took a fall, laid down and died and the loud mouthed waves whispered themselves to a quiet lace froth. And in the new calmness, I move freely, my legs are knives slicing through butter and before I know it I am bobbing fearlessly beside him, out beyond the breakers, swaddled in great reams of deep blue satin, smooth as the perfectly made bed in the five star hotel of my imagination and unlike the bedsheets in the spare room of my mind, this silk does not wrinkle nor tangle, does not coil around the doona of my distress, it merely inhales serenely, exhales contentedly, it breathes to the rhythm of a song I am only just beginning to know.

Later that night, Thomas and I swam neck deep in the creek the fading sun had turned the colour of honey. We floated––two cinnamon specks in a cup of soft milk and tranquil as any tropical aquarium where fish are well, held captive if anything, but that’s not what I’m trying to say––what I’m trying to say is for sixty four days I’d been sinking. Thomas is a scientist, he points out I cannot sink in sea water–– something to do with the salt ions. He is rational I am not, and whilst I have hated him in recent times, (after all it is him who invited her here), I have knuckled down, I have sucked things up through the thinnest of straws till I almost swallowed my fucking tongue and now I am chalking the days on the headboard of my discontent until she leaves. And it is unlikely I will go back into the water once she is gone. I will have proved what I needed to prove.

Send the letter.

I will not have her back in my house again.