We were walking yesterday when he said, ‘There aren’t any waves in the Mediterranean Sea.’
‘I know,’ he continued, ‘because I used to swim in it every day. I’d put down my tools, change into my shorts, and cycle the path to the beach. I used to do it all year round. In winter – when I dove through the first waves – the locals would shout “Swim Loco, Swim!” And I would; I’d swim out to the furthest yellow buoy covered in ages of uncleaned bird-shit, hook my feet into its algae-ridden chain under the water, lie back and bounce with the tide. I could think of nothing and everything floating there in my open-air solitude. Memories and plans would stream across my eyes. I often contemplated if I had it deep in my will to swim to my own horizon – I never did.
‘I could always feel the urge build inside me, feel the straightening of the doubts, and then just as I had almost convinced myself; I would renege on the pact. All that I sought was confirmation that I didn’t want to die. Just to contemplate it for a moment was enough. But I would let those thoughts flourish; flourish and eventually fall. I knew if I ever fully convinced myself that it would forever be the right time.’
I felt I should say something about me being pleased that he hadn’t let go.
‘It wasn’t myself that I wanted to let go of,’ he said. ‘It was everyone else. Don’t you feel like that sometimes? Like you could commit to being you if there wasn’t anyone else around? Like a stray rock in a dune of sand.
‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘I’d worn a band on my wrist for years – a bracelet; and I’d had it so long that it had become invisible to me. I’d been given it in love and it had disappeared with hate. The seawater had been tugging it along my forearm as I lay back in my public isolation chamber. When I rolled the circular wooden beads back down the arm my mind tripped to what they still subconsciously represented. Being again made aware of its existence weakened my resolve, I still must have yearned for that nourishing and bygone feeling.
‘You see I hadn’t fully let go – how could I have when I still wore the band that I had been hesitant in ridding myself of at the time. Now it could turn out to be the last strand to happiness, or the final hair before balding.’
He didn’t speak for a number of paces but I knew better than to interrupt.
‘I pawed at the beads with my other hand, drifting in a pool of my own thought, using the swell of the water as my scales and weighing how much of myself was invested in each bead.
‘You see, I’ve always been a forthright man and my convictions are bound, this much I know. I was given the bracelet and I kept it; I kept it loudly for a while. Nevertheless the thing had meaning and I was dubious of throwing away the memories – but the pain I carried on my wrist was so specific and so exact to me that it had seeped inside and hidden itself. Y’know?
‘I eventually forged my thoughts, grabbed the beads in a fist and pulled them from my wrist – breaking the elastic that held them together. With that snap I floated backwards, hurled everything from me and let my feet unwrap from the sunken chain as seawater surged into my mouth and flooded my carnal cries.
‘My head dipped under the water – just for a second – and when I came back up I knew I was rid of it all. There were no more ties to the connection. No links left to shear.
‘If I had been unsure before; then I knew I was right once the act was completed. I had seen each bead separate from the string high above me in mid-air. Each one pitting the water at a different time. And I tell you right now; I hope they all sank.’
Stephen McGurk, an Irish writer, has travelled across Europe collecting stories, experiences and pain. Notably his short stories and poetry are featured in The NY Literary Magazine, The Galway Review, and A New Ulster. He currently resides in Bordeaux where he is developing his first novella. Follow Stephen on twitter @McgurkNehpets