It roars, the white-knuckled sea; and the gulls circle and cry. They remind me I am alive as I look out from the veranda. The salt air assaults my nostrils. The wind blow-dries my wet face, sticky with emotion. My senses are flooded with the blue of the ocean and the sky and I know I was right to come here.
I was twenty-six before I finally ran away from home. I'd tried once before; packed my little, brown school bag for the journey, pushed down the silver clasps, and trudged all the way up our long gravel drive before turning back.
This time, I threw comfortable clothes, sports shoes, paper, and pen into an apple crate, into the boot of the car, and drove down to the beach for summer. For three months. To write all that had happened. Tate and I broke up in the sixth year of our relationship. He said there were limits to the things I would do for him. He was right. I would die for him but I would not cook and clean for him for the next fifty years of my life - a death sentence rather than a life sentence, so I shed him and 'our' friends like an old skin - just like I'd done before, slink off like a cat into the night, come back to live another one of nine lives.
On the veranda now, leaning out between my arms, the sunshine's orange in my closed eyes, the light of an idea.
I have not written in six years but the words spill onto the paper. The veranda extends from a turret. It is sparsely furnished - a desk, a chair, a lamp. The landscape fills the hexagonal window and the gulls peck at their reflections. 'Write here. Write here,' they seem to be tapping and the warmth of the room calls. This becomes my writing room. I learn to be comfortable sitting alone, sipping bottomless cups of coffee in the outside courtyard of the local cafe. "Hello," the owner, Tony, greets me. "Nice day isn't it?" He doesn't bother me after that. I've told him I'm a writer. I sit back and pretend I'm in Paris.
I run again (Tate hated exercise), the sun hot on my back, the sea cooling my feet. A novel stretches before me. I like my aloneness - the freedom of my aloneness. Then one day - a dog. His bark breaks the hush of the dawn. He circles, yapping around my legs, binding me to the spot. You rescue me then, come running out, shooing. And the dog goes.
"Thanks," I say, begin running again.
I am conscious you are running in the same direction. We run together, match each other breath for breath. My thoughts go. I notice our strides are in sync.
"I'm Mike," you say.
"Where do you run to?"
"The next bay." My voice hiccups. "Ten K."
"Haven't seen you here before. I come here two weeks every year."
"I'm renting," I breathe. " Break...from the city."
You nod. I notice then your chiseled features, the beads of sweat on your upper lip. Your body shades me from the sun. When I turn and run back, you follow, yapping at my heels.
"I have to go," I say at the house.
"I'm not far from here. Are you interested in a cold drink?"
"No. I've got to go to the cafe. Thanks, anyway."
You push the sand with your shoe. "Perhaps, I could join you there? For a drink"
"Sure," I say. Then skip inside. You stand there a minute. I feel you staring at me. Your eyes start at my head, move slowly to my ankles. Then you turn and run down the beach. Tony refills my cup.
"Not alone today." He winks as you sit down. I close my notebook, put down my pen. Done nothing but adorn the margins with doodles anyway. You talk. You have questions all afternoon.
"Can I come in?" you ask dropping me at my door, your face in my face.
"It's late," I say.
Somehow, you end up inside anyway. You open the door to my special room and step in. The sea roars. Your face against the window, you stare the sea down and there you are staring back, the image of you and the sea locked in glass, the waves crashing on your face. You turn to my desk, pick up my pencil and seemingly study it, look at my battered exercise book with more than just a cursory glance. Your fingers pry open the pages like a virgin's legs. I start and walk towards you. You have a hint of a smile on your face but the book is now closed.
"I have a confession to make," you
say. "The dog, this morning - Brutus - is
You kiss me then. Your tongue draws the words from out of my mouth so all I'm left with is 'mms' and 'aahs'.
I dream. The dog pursues me down the stretch of beach. I am running and running, steps weighted by the roll of the surf across my feet. Panic catches in my throat. The dog leaps, clamps my neck between the vice of his foaming jaws, and carries me to you like a rag doll. Drops me at your feet. "Good dog," you say. "Good dog," and rub the loose skin on his neck.
I don't know how long I sit on the beach, this morning, too exhausted to run. I watch the sea swell and fall back. My words flow out with the tide and I am drowning. I feel your hand on my shoulder. My body clenches like a fist, knees to chin, arms bound tight around knees. Only the wind sets my hair adrift. "You okay?" You lower yourself onto the sand. I look at you. A writer without words, a mute. I gasp for air, drowning in my own tears. Thoughts circle and spin. I cannot reach to hold them.
"I never invited you in," I finally sob.
And you look at me, that face, that beautiful blank face, with no understanding.
"I have to go."
Find another beach somewhere. Find my lost voice. The waves lick the very tips of my toes - tide coming back. I get up and walk away, leave only my footprints and you enveloped in silence.
Donna Lee lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand. Her poetry has been anthologized and has appeared in literary magazines such as Poetry NZ and J.A.A.M. Her short fiction has appeared in Hecate and Scant, Australian journals, and the New Zealand publication, Takahe.
Once Upon a Visit|
Age of Interconnectedness
Paris A La Fantastique
|The Ten Commandments
of Creative Women