Saturday, 6 June 2020

'They Were Not Mermaids, But They Swam' by Leigh Camacho Rourks

The ice melts slowly here. Not as slow as before. But slow.

Her mittened hands light on the boat’s frosted rail, and her back bows with the wind.

What she is thinking: This. This. This. This is it.

This block, this ice mountain, blue with shattered light, is lazy, lackadaisical even. A reluctant lollygagger. Barely budging and it already June out.

Purposefully, uncannily languid.

Always has been.

Near the coast. the water is maybe fifty degrees, but in this place, nestled against a cleaving glacier, wind churning against its skin, the sea practically shivers.

It is too much.

Too blue. Too green.

It is much, much, much more than anything else.

The man next to her snaps another picture, and what she is thinking is not that she too should have a camera, binoculars, a hot toddy to sip and spill with every lurch of the hull, what she is thinking is that this is a good spot.

Water cracking and calling.

She did have one once, a camera. A nice bag for it. Lenses to click into place, change out.

She learned to control aperture. Exposure.

She knows, for instance, that the man’s photos will be a study in light, even if his gloved finger is new to the button, his eye untrained. Scattered by ice this old, this big, light is inescapable, touches every single, small thing, settles and sits like mass. Dances like fluttering leaves shaken loose in a storm. He will show the pictures for months, maybe hang them in his home. She knows what that is like, too. To have something beautiful, to fit it in your hand, your life, to take a shadow of something bigger, better and hang its corpse.

What she is thinking: This is a good damn spot. 

One foot first. She puts her left sneaker on a chair, knee bent, explosive, and she is up. And it is joy. Her lighting hand lands full now, clutches the rail now, heaves her body up now. The other foot scales. Toes crunch against spackle now.

Soleus. Gastrocnemius. Quadriceps. Adductors.

Hamstrings now.

The man with the camera hesitates before opening his mouth to caw. He says, “You--” and she smiles at him. And then smiles at the sky. She is already changing.

In the air, she slows. Crocheted mittens, grey and black, spin free, small gull shapes fluttering next to her.  Her shirt. Pants.

A strip tease in quarter time. Eighth time. Thirty-secondth. One hundredth. One thousandth.

She falls year after year in this cold. Reverting. Evolving. Emerging. Hatching.

Her skin crackles—too blue, nearly green.

This deliberate dive. This lazy, lackadaisical dive.

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