On the day we took the boat out, the sky was sleepy. You promised it would wake up later and I have always believed everything you say, even when I know you’re lying. I wrapped the sandwiches carefully, tucking the wax paper under their bellies.
Outside, you harnessed the boat to the back of the car. Watching though the cobwebbed kitchen window, I marvelled at our lives, how much we had overcome and forgotten to achieve, this life of majestic simplicity. You talked less these days, but the silence was gentle, time had calmed us both. I walked outside with our provisions under my arm. The dented tin boat looked less seaworthy than usual and despite myself, I felt rush of anxiety pump through me. You must have read my expression, because you smiled at me with those eyes that have seen me at my best and worst. Driving towards the beach, I flicked though radio stations, enjoying the collage of death and love songs. You drove how you always do, fast and controlled – you should have been an ambulance driver or something of that nature. Outside the window, a sea of green washed past, you always used to say we should escape the city, but that was when your words were frivolous and smelt of poison.
The trees waved manically as we sped by in the rust-lined station wagon and it dawned on me that this life was as far removed from our past as was possible. Remember when you made that stupid joke, just before we got to the beach? I laughed so much I thought I’d be sick. I’m laughing now as I write this, I love the way you understand me. Everything was grey that afternoon, the sand, the sky and the sea. I sat on the bonnet of the car and ate an apple while you tied knots or whatever it was that you were doing. I couldn’t see anything out there, the grey horizon stretched out till tomorrow. Do you ever run your fingers over the past like they were old scars? The pain’s gone and you’re left with watery memories. I have forgiven you, you know that, right? I hope so. When we got on the water, I couldn’t help but think of drowning, I didn’t tell you, because you think my fear’s irrational. We rocked in the waves, while you started the motor. I took off my lifejacket, placed it beneath my head and stretched out. The sky followed us, watchful as we sped into open waters.
It’s funny, because when you’re younger, you fear that moment when you have exhausted your lover’s secrets and them yours. That moment of complete exposure. But I have long purged myself of all that clutter. Letting go is the only choice anyone really has. It all disappears regardless; clinging desperately to its hands only makes the pain worse. Pulling my hood up to protect my face from the spray of the ocean, I sung you that song.
“I’m coming home,
The morning after next,
I’m coming home,
I’ve seen all there is to see,
And baby, I missed you from the day I left,
I’m coming home
So I can finally sleep”
I sung loudly accompanied by the outboard motor and the waves. When I wrote that song in Reykjavík, in my world of ice and homesickness, I honestly never thought we’d ever see each other again.
You wore that look, the one I always tease you about, all stern and purposeful, like you were testing the ocean. And when I sat up the shore was so far behind us I felt a little terrified. I lay back and ate one of the sandwiches, catching your eye every so often, making you smile. I know that this is what makes you feel most alive, escaping everything. It’s always been your way. That’s why I come with you, even though the water makes me sick here, just below the scar on my chest. There was a time that I would study that scar, it reminded me of us, of that year when we lost our minds in that tiny one bedroom flat in Devonport. I love to see your eyes burn, like when you talk politics or we fuck. But out here, on the ocean, they are always brightest.
We cut through the waves, heading out towards the grey horizon. I was afraid you’d drive us off the end of the earth. But despite my fear, I didn’t ask you to turn back once. I alternated between closing my eyes and studying your face. I know people said we were running away, moving out here, leaving everything we had behind in that burning city. But those years of dead-end nights and broken mornings, of cheap drugs and expensive mistakes, of endless falling, they were the distractions. When you finally pulled the boat round and headed back towards the beach, I breathed out and only then realised I had been holding my breath this whole time.
When we got back to shore, we struggled with the boat. I kept getting in your way and laughing hysterically at your frustration. You called me useless and it was so romantic. I slept the whole drive home, dreaming of forests and fish and woke up just as you pulled into the driveway, yawning a little more than I had to for effect. Once inside, I left a trail of clothes to the bathroom and stood in the shower waiting for you. When you finally got in, I cleaned you meticulously until the water ran out and you ran off with the only dry towel. That night we drank the last of the whisky we got for Christmas. I watched our reflection in the windows; faces flush from the fire and sprits, staring back at us.
There are no more promises to be broken, nothing left unsaid, all alternatives exhausted.
There is simply the days stretching out ahead of us, certain and unpredictable as the weather. I love our adventures baby, but perhaps I won’t go out on the boat with you again. I have tempted fate enough for 100 lifetimes. The fire ate away at itself, until all that remained were a few glowing embers. And when the whisky ran out, I read you this story I was writing about love and the ocean.