Lost to the sea

By Marie-Louise McGuinness 

My love is a statue on the cliff-top. She is stone grey and her anguish reflects the myriad of slate hues that envelop her. Her hair, like silvered snakes of medusa, is buffeted to dance with the wind and her screams are absorbed to cavernous silence by a vacuum of raging wind.

At dawn she is a sentinel, her eyes trained on the pencil-stroke horizon and pale toes in line with the crumbling edge of rock. Below her, angry ropes of marshmallow sea-foam thrash against the earth.  

She waits for her loves, the man and boy who went out to fish forty years ago .

I met her when my dog escaped his leash to gain favor from the lady with sad eyes. She nuzzled him and shimmering teardrops soaked into his downy nape and as the pent up reserves of love poured into my pet, my heart was stripped from my chest and gifted to her.

I knew the tale of David and Sam, how they went out to fish and never returned. Only shards of hand painted wood from their little vessel came back, splintered and ravaged to sandcastle fodder for innocent hands in the summer.

They built the boat together, the family of three. They scavenged the wood over the Winter, then sanded and polished nature’s bounty into something beautiful. They painted it pale blue and adorned it with a yellow sail made from her scarf.

On the day they set out she’d packed a red metal lunchbox with ham sandwiches, slices of Victoria sponge lovingly baked and a flask of tea and milk to sate their thirst. Her last memory was the glittering excitement in her 7-year-old’s eyes.

It is the only memory she holds close, any made since are in black and white. One memory, one moment of joy. Then she met me.

She drifted over time into my home and my bed, where I convinced myself that her moans of pleasure were for me and not the images of 30 year old David, still hirsute with strong hewn muscle that played on the dark film screen within her closed eyelids.

To prove my worth, I toiled to provide sustenance and warm comfort in practical ways. I prayed she would value these efforts and her eyes would fill with the fervent emotion that spilled when thoughts of her husband swept through her mind.

Each morning I wait at home and light the fire, stoking the coal and turf to orange flamed warmth. I play music and bake scones until the air is filled to bursting with sweet scent and sound. Until the house vibrates with life to have her see that I am here and we are alive.

We don’t speak of David and Sam anymore, not since the day she refused my offer of marriage. The day I became the ghost to her ghosts.

I railed at her, wailed my inky discontent into the air surrounding her cockleshell ears. I begged her to see me, the man in flesh, now aged and doughy who dripped love for her though every pore.

I cursed the home that she still tended to, the floors she mopped and the picture frames polished, the pristine museum scented with beeswax and fresh flowers.  A mausoleum of a life without me.

I screamed that they no longer existed, if they somehow survived the cruel waves of the sea, David would no longer be the man in her dreams and her boy would now be full man. But she sat like stone, eyes dipped from my wrath as if deaf to my voice. My anger peaked and she slumped, her life-force seeping like fog from her soul. 

Apologies poured in relentless waves from my mouth as I gathered her into my arms. Guilt swarmed through me as I knew she suffered enough. Heart-broken, I carried her childlike frame to the bed.

So now as she slips out of the door each morning, I clench my eyes and my jaw to the hurt, I try not to become rock that could crumble to gravel, like the cliff edge worn from her feet.

* * *

Marie-Louise McGuinness comes from a wonderfully neurodiverse household in rural Northern Ireland. She has work published or forthcoming in Roi Faineant Press, Bending Genres, Intrepidus Ink, Flash Fiction Magazine and The Airgonaut amongst others. She enjoys writing from a sensory perspective.

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