I have come to the sea

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Disused lifeboat house at Porthleven, Cornwall.

This was a little piece written for the Shrewsbury Flash Fiction group. We were given the opening line “I have come to the sea; I hate the sea.” Interestingly, everyone there said how hard it had been to write about hating the sea – we all love it – and this sparked some great conversation about why humans might have such a strong affinity with the sea. ____________________________________

I have come to the sea; I hate the sea. With its wide promise and elusive calm, the sea is a sham. I have failed. I have lost my way. I have come to the sea because you brought me to this point, and I stare now over this undulating plane of ink black and wonder how I imagined the bulk of existence was above me. Faced with the sea’s Truth, I find I have my lived life on a mountain. In just a few strides, that which I thought lower ground will drop into a chasm so deep I can’t even contemplate the height at which I currently stand. It leaves me dizzy and foolish.

I have failed, lost my way, and the sea can prove this.

You said I should keep my gaze on the horizon, but you were wrong. The horizon is an impossibility and all that stumbling towards something out of reach is pointless when a person doesn’t even see where their feet have trodden. You said the horizon would drive me, and it did. But to what end?

I have come to the sea to remind myself of this.

I have come to the sea to show you how wrong you were.

I’ll meet you there, you said. So I scan and squint at the distant blue-black line, take measure of the steps towards it and sense the drop, that vast fall down from this fragile pausing place, feel the churning of fathoms unknown, the closing of darkness, and more and more the way seems lost, more and more I see the failing, and I weep.

I weep because I am still driven.

I have come to the sea; I hate the sea, and as its benign edges curl around my toes, tugging me onwards, I glance down and see the ink black is transparent here, tumbling grains of sand over my skin, frothing gently in pools which swirl and sink and creep slowly back to their source.

I lift my eyes, return my gaze to the final destination, and stumble on.

Sandie Zand, May 2015

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Two Coffees

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(this was a piece written for the Shrewsbury Flash Fiction evening, the theme of which was “rules”.

The Flash Fiction group meets second Wednesday of every month at the Shrewsbury Coffee House – all are welcome, it’s a great evening)

Two Coffees

Way back, when it mattered, I’d said: “There’s only one rule and that is there are no rules.

You laughed. “You can’t do that,” you said. “Can’t say there aren’t rules and make that a rule – it’s a contradiction.”

“Okay,” I said. “Call it a guideline then. No rules, that’s the guideline. Agreed?”

“Yeah, cool,” you said. You laughed again, you sounded full, and I knew I had you.

You were making coffee. Instant. You didn’t drink the proper stuff back then. Even with coffee, you wouldn’t follow the rules; you’d pour hot water into the cups then sprinkle granules on the surface where they’d float in belligerent denial of purpose. You had to stir it for ages before they dissolved.

Now you’re making coffee again, in the espresso maker we bought last June, and you hand me mine – black, just as it comes. Into yours, you shake sugar from the bag, not caring whether you get one measure or five, and you stir the sticky brew with an egg spoon for ages.

“I was wondering,” you say, “what the guideline would be for seeing other people.”

The coffee burns my top lip, hits the roof of my mouth and burns that too. I swear, jerk the cup away, hot liquid curls over the edge and spills onto my shirt.

“I mean theoretically,” you say, “you know.”

“Why ask me?” I dab at the spill with a tea-towel, but it’s seeped right through and is clinging fast. I go to the sink, dampen a cloth and press the stain gently, glad to have my back to you. I wait for you to speak.

“Well, as guardian of guidelines,” you say. “I mean they are always yours, right? So I thought, well, you might have… you know… one in reserve…”

You move forward and peer over my shoulder.

“Rub soap on it,” you suggest.

“It’s silk,” I say, “dry-clean only.”

“They always put that, just covering their backs, it needs soap.”

You do the laundry with the same reckless will with which you sweeten your coffee. I had to make it a guideline in the end – after the first couple of months of sludge-grey whites – that we each take care of our own clothes.

“So…” You drain your cup in one mouthful, swallow it down on the pause. “What say you?”

“I suppose it’s a case of to thine own self be true,” I say.

“That’s the guideline?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Okay,” you say. “Cool. It was just theoretical, just curiosity, you know.”

You put down your empty cup.

I stand by the sink, a circle of damp encroaching on my chest.

And I wait for you to leave.