A View of the Water

By Alexander Holcomb

Back and forth. Back and forth.

The cabin belongs to him for the weekend: timeshare.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

It has been three years since he visited the timeshare. His mother and stepfather took it the previous times, but this year, when he tried to give it up, she said he needed this. But this cabin with a view of the water drowns him with memories he cannot forget. His work is a faceless office job that requires less than ten hours of work a week, but he stretches it to fifty.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

The back porch hammock is new since the last time he was here. And here he rests—back and forth—with a Business Book in hand. Rest, he tells himself. Read this book. Smell the warm tree air. You’ll feel better. Listen to the birds cawing.

He knows he should have brought something better for rest. A business book is a wasteful book, but the material assuages the guilt he feels for leaving work. He plays an important role as the Manager of Company Resources.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

Two years ago his mother told him that the owners had added a row of trees at the front of the cabin to hide it from the road. The precocious conifers have a long life to lead at the timeshare that will be, if he can’t rid himself of the cabin, a mark of his own time passing.

A bird croaks, and a boat passes by. He flips the page, and a gust blows it back.

When his wife picked the place ten years ago, he liked it. He adored anything she suggested. His ideas and her ideas flowed in such a way that it was impossible to remember who was the originator, but the good ideas he always attributed to her. They were in sync. That summer they brought the children—grown and disenchanted by cabins now—to enjoy swimming in the lake and warming in the hot tub. Playing pool was the crowning activity in those days. He and his wife made love on the table most years before laughing and spraying bleach so the children could play in the morning.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

She’s gone now, and he wonders if that was a good idea. The woman he sees now doesn’t know he’s a survivor. They meet a few times a week to commiserate about their jobs, the weather, and the difficulty of living. She was not invited to the timeshare. He couldn’t bring her.

Dead, he thinks, she’s dead. She was here once. Here with me. It’s holy ground. Stop. Flip the page. 

I’m tired of telling you this story. How did she die? She died by suicide. What more could you want?

Back and forth. Back and forth.

He puts the book down and closes his eyes. The kids weren’t there. He smells bleach and thinks of pool tables and blood-covered linoleum that won’t clean. Bleach is a perversion of water––breaking the flow, removing the mess. She never cleaned up after herself. The pool table was covered before the trip, and he won’t play.

Hard work removes the bleach. But it’s Saturday, and he’s on vacation with an inbox he emptied last night. Alcohol smells too much like bleach, and weed was never an option. Smoking he gave up when the children came, and he promised her. He can’t bring himself to let the promise go.

A bird lands on the porch, but he does not see it because his eyes are still closed. He lives in a haze, and he imagines her face above him wider than ever. She wears the hoodie from their first trip here that she bought at the gas station because August was colder than expected. Her hair is graying, and in a few years, it will all be gray. Her face drips. She swam in the water, and I am tired of telling you this story because it is true.

The water drips from the face. He lifts his hand without looking. He asks: you went without me? Can I come with you tomorrow? She nods, but he sees that the hand is red. The water turns to bleach, and the woman changes. She’s lost weight, and her haggard eyes are damp. The child has died again, and she will too. He twitches, and he’s awake. The Business Book sits on his stomach. His hypnagogic hallucinations are always her. His dreams are too.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

He goes to the kitchen to find salt and vinegar chips. His mouth is wet from drinking too much water, and the tartness dries it out. For a while, he kept buying her favorite chips, to taste the memory. But neither sour cream nor onion alleviates grief.

April is when it happened. The season changes were always hard on her. Depression feeds on inconsistency, even temperature. But the winter change had been smooth; spring to summer was the killer. She died of temperature change. I tell myself it was more—that her death was deeper than the fear of hot weather. But searching for rationality in the irrational is a fool’s quest. And do I want suicide to be rational?

He turns on a documentary about living with purpose. It’s religious in a subtle way. He falls asleep to the sound of an old man talking about the search for meaning.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

In the morning, he rocks on the hammock, reads, and sips coffee. At lunch, it will be time to go, and he will hope he can pass the timeshare to someone else next year. He will not come back. It will be empty if no one takes it. If he progresses with his partner, maybe they’ll find somewhere to visit.

Until lunch, he reads the business book, taking breaks to cry.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

                                                            *   *   *

Alexander Holcomb is a marketing specialist working in the technology industry. His work has been published in Poets’ Choice, The Friends of The Knox County Public Library Newsletter, and various student publications. He lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife and editor Olivia.

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