by Zara Gudnason
NB: When she was a child she would pretend to fear things to get attention from her family. It was an inconsistent habit – like the boy that cried wolf – that was easy to see through. Because if on the first day if you fear birds and the second day you do not, on the third day people won’t believe you. This inconsistent habit followed her into teenage and then adult life. She liked to weave new fears into existing stories for a little twist; today it could be heights, tomorrow it might be spiders. But wiser minds know that fear ultimately lives in the unknown and sometimes it lives in what we think we know or what we softly imagine.
GIRL (with regard to the boat)
I thought the boat would be what I feared. I spoke often and openly about my fear of water, I had said that I wanted to manifest those fears, that I wanted to know them.
“I think to do that I need to face the ocean.”
“I need to summon my fear to become fearless so I can give life to the words that are stuck in my chest.”
That’s not true though because all it was, was just a vessel. All the fear was, was him.
I had expected to be as overcome with fear as I had been last time I was on a boat. Same same but different. Same type of boat, it was a catamaran but travelling in the opposite direction.
I had clung to the seats last time. I had clutched at my drink. I had talked fast, without a lot of sense. But was it real? I need to know if I was actually scared because I am not scared now.
WATER (with regard to the boat)
She was above me now; I was all around her but she was running above me in the same way that the clouds run away from the ground. She was safe in the boat, she was safe from me.
I held her water tight, at least I thought I did but it kept slipping through my fingers and running down my hands. The last pieces of her that I could own had run away into themselves in one big harmonious molecule.
I am a living breathing organism that is made up of beauty and life and shit. I shake with rage, I can kill with force but I can be peace, I can be tranquility.
Why wouldn’t she let me be? Why wouldn’t she let me be with her?
GIRL (and nostalgia)
“So when I was six right, I was on the boat with dad and he was working in the engine room – I think he’d left me in the galley with a milo and some toys – and me being the adventurous child I was right had started adventuring around,”
“I’m pretty sure I’d taken myself up the stairs – you know the stairs on boats how they are really steep – well I’d climbed up them and somehow I think I missed one of the steps and I’ve fallen straight down to the floor of the galley and that…”
(She pauses for effect)
“Is why I have two really bent middle fingers.” She says as she ends her story by giving a double one fingered salute to my audience.
That is the first memory she has of being on a boat, the falling and crying and breaking her fingers.
GIRL and THE WATER
I surfaced from the bath, just a limp white body in 40 centimeters of water. How boring. I was bored! I was bored but similarly heartbroken, I had spent hours in the bath and intended to spend more but a knock at the door startled me out of the tepid water. Damp and wrinkled, wrapped in the bath robe that I hated I answered it.
It was the water, dressed up nice this time. He was wearing a suit and tie with the socks my mum gave him for Christmas.
He wanted to make amends, he wanted to set things straight but I slammed the door and water rushed in, it was black now. The suit slipped under the door. Two fatherly hands grasped my neck and shook and shook and shook.
Water in my eyes, ears, up my nose, in my lungs. My robe was wet.
He was angry, the water was hot. My attempts at defense left me weak as he slammed against me. His fists rained down, he held me against the wall, he pushed me to the floor. He took the water from my bath, then with his suit back on he left.
Things were different from before.
WATER (at ease)
She would never listen to me when she was in a mood like that. There is always this one night that I remember each time this happens.
“You want to get a drink,”
We had left work late; the customers had been nothing but obtuse if not rude all night.
I recommended the pub but it was closed and we had walked on.
Half the lamp lights had been out; the streets were quite except for a few lonely walkers.
A man with his dog, a woman rugged up pushing a pram and us. The inconsistent lights made giants out of our shadows, she had run her hand against the fence palings as I spoke.
I say that the customers had been obtuse but on reflection I think it was her. My sentences had been met with terse responses. I didn’t know why I was anywhere with her.
I asked about her life. I didn’t know the girl from a bar of soap. Who was she, why did she work at the bar, how did she come to be so bitter. I didn’t ask her that but I wanted to.
We walked past every place that could have served us a drink and then we walked some more.
We turned onto my street, I don’t know if it was me leading or her. I think it was me. She didn’t know where I lived.
I asked her in. She obliged silently. We walked through the hall that was more jungle than house because of my rampant philodendrons.
She softened in the bottle of wine, although she wouldn’t sit down. She had leaned against the sink, glass held so high there was a crook in her elbow. A crook that would have had you scolded if you’d put it on a table in the presence of grand mama.
In that light, she was every woman I had wanted to take to bed. She was my baby sitter when I was too old to be looked after. She was my first girlfriend, shy and sweet with soft downy limbs. She was her, long and thin with a curve at the hip and the chest. Slim face, angular nose, long hair swept into the collar of her jumper, nonplussed.
It was the first night we spent together, nothing happened, just talking and drinking and some hands later on but nothing exciting.
In that evening I became aware that I was playing a game. She had kept telling me that she wouldn’t, she just couldn’t, how could she, why should she fuck me.
I had said it’s fine, don’t worry about it. If it’s not going to happen it’s not going to happen. It wasn’t fine though. Secretly I was a bit hurt, y’know just a bit mad.
There became a point where I started planning, whether by virtue or tactic I would get her to relent. I didn’t think of it like that though, it had more heart. It sounds cold when I say it like that.
Anyway, that’s all I can see when she gets like this and I get like that.
Blue, everything is blue.
A kind of clear blue that goes on forever, that drowns you in clarity. It is a blue that suffocates without forgiveness, it takes you into its arms and holds you down. It plays a show reel of your worst mistakes in HD to prove that this is what you need. It lets water into your ears and your eyes, up your nose, into your lungs. It chokes you with two big fatherly hands, it chokes you with concern. It’s putting you out of your misery, your sunken sad misery.
Let go, let go, let go.
He said, “come to me, fall down, I’m ready to have you now.”
I let go and fall, but I’m not falling. I’m floating, my limp white body refuses to drown. Even with the hands of the ocean clamped around my throat, I won’t die. I keep living with a hand around my neck but it turns out that it was my hand all along. My fear was holding me down, my fear was cross dressing as the ocean, it was moonlighting as death but all along it lived on the land. It lived in the blood of the man I loved. It lived in flesh of my father and mother. My fear is the man who held his hand to my throat. My fear is the man who used his body against my best friend. It manifested as an irrational fear of the ocean but it was them all along.
He spoke quietly and the water said, “if you think you know where the fear lives then come to me, dive to where you think the ink lives. Hold it in your hands.”
“Be brave and come to me,” he whispered, “come to me.”
I was diving as best as I could, I was kicking hard with my arms against my body. I was diving against my will as my fear crushed my chest, as the water took my breath but I took it on again and again.
Then it boomed, “the water isn’t clean.” He told me that I will die in the depths. “You will choke on oil and decay. It doesn’t matter how brave you are, you will die in the depths. You will die,” it whispered.
And I did.
“Come to me sweet girl. There is little to fear on the land compared with the sea. We do have earthquakes and spiders but you’ll be safe with me.”
GIRL (on land)
“I have sea legs,” I said and fell down. “How long was I on that boat for?”
WATER (on girl on land)
“In the end there was nothing I could do to really move you,” he said and the tide took him.