Clear Blue by Bernadette Robertson
I came here because my skin was compromised, paper thin and ragged, like it had atrophied by the passing of time, and the wounding of a million imperceptible violations. No one else could see it; only me, exiled here, where no prayer could reach. The decking on the porch was worn, but as my naked feet tread on the wood warmed sumptuously by the afternoon sun, I think I can breathe again. The wind plays with my hair, and I am not cold, only a little dead inside, so temperature is moot. I hold my hand up to my forehead, so I am not blinded by the sunlight as I look toward the shore, the sea taunting me, with its rhythmic rolling back and forth, endlessly. It is making an uneasy proposal to me, although I cannot be certain. I had only been certain of Major, but I was wrong.
I make my way, marching doggedly through the sand, and the breeze turns into a slightly baying wind. I have the feeling that I am crushing each individual grain, trouncing over the small mounds, and massacring this unspoiled beauty. Major, fragrant ash in my hands, is quiet. He has never been quiet. He had dimples that christened his face, and a glorious mischievousness, that was innocent when he was a child, and deadly when he was not. He went from holding my hand, his tiny one smooth and sweaty, smelling of grass and leather, to holding secrets, and caressing darkness-- shiny, inevitable and mysterious to him, like his future.
The last time I saw Major, his eyes were watery, and his skin was clammy and dry-looking. I was spewing ineffective words, panicked, but certain that I would see him again. He started to giggle.
“Stop making fun of me, Major.”
“Oh wow,” his smile was quick and effortless, “you worry too much.”
He could lie to me, like he was breathing air, like everything he said were a certain thing, and the craftiness of it, made me question myself.
“You are killing me, Major.”
My words were shaky, and full with desperation. He had turned on himself, but I had held him, shielded him, so I did not recognize it. He had my eyes, and the same ‘black tea with milk’ color skin as mine. I was still bold with the lie of an eternity to make it all better, seduced by the idea of my will, masquerading as the power to push away the cruelties of his life. I was his mother—I could change everything, not knowing the effort was futile, like the prophylactic covering of mirrors during a warm Louisiana lightning storm, that the little girl that would become my mother, stood on rickety stools to accomplish.
He brushed my face, like he used to when he was a child, but now his hands were large, and unusually beautiful for a man. My head reached his chest, and I pretended to struggle, while his arms squeezed me tight. He smelled like soap and faint burnt charcoal. He let me go too soon.
‘Bye, be good, I’ll see you later.” His voice was playful and melodious.
He was gone, as quickly as if he had never been there.
He had entered the world like that, fast and furiously, some life-force pushing him out of me, a foreign object, like a clawing alien, let free with an almost violent whoosh-- sinewy, tiny elbows and knees, bumping my flesh on the way out. I did not understand what the hurry was. Then, I had not yet known grief, loyal like a dog.
I continue toward the shore; every step is becoming harder, as if I am already under water. I shorten my labored paces to conserve energy. I can see a boat in the distance, a large catamaran, moving swiftly, and I am jealous. I had speedily left behind the furnishings of my massively untidy life, and ventured here, with what was left of my Major, but now, almost to the shore’s end, there was no place else to go. I would never move effortlessly, or speedily again. I would always feel like I were dragging a weight. I would never dance, or gallivant, shimmy, or prance. I mourned the notion of that.
The sun began to sink in the sky, and its’ brightness dimmed from hot and white, to an undulating, cool orange-red, quickly, like the metamorphosis was fated. I felt betrayed by its unescapable certainty. It would rise tomorrow and sink again, mocking all else, with its’ predictability.
This was the same sun that Major had incessantly asked me questions about one day--- ‘where did it go when it seemed to hide in the sea, why couldn’t he follow it, wouldn’t it burn itself out soon…’ He had a sand-bucket in his hand, tiny teeming sand-crabs traversing the wet hill of his knee. He smelled like the ocean, my favorite thing.
“Major, you will grow to be old, and resplendent with life, before the sun ever dies.”
I did not consider that it would be a lie, like the forewarned ancestors, their babies ripped from their arms to be sold off, their husbands hanging like rotting fruit from trees, their teenagers, trussed and dragged behind cars for sport. I imagined my great-great grandmothers, sucking their teeth in disgust at my weak naiveté.
“Mommy, what does ‘re-pen-dit’ mean?”
“Resplendent means magnificent and stunning like you, little boy!”
He never heard it, Bored with me, he ran to catch more crabs, and find more shells, making important treasures of whatever he came across. I watched him run away, satisfied and smug with his place here, brandishing his right to claim the present, and innocently believe it was all that mattered. The breeze had become cooler, the beach emptier, and I had so much else to do.
“Major… time to go..,’ I called-- frivolously, though, as if we could have stayed forever.
Now, the shadow of a large seagull flying several feet from the most prevalent waves caressing the shore, shades a part of me momentarily, and I notice the catamaran is gone. Just that quickly, and its’ absence feels daunting, but oddly, comforting. I am startled by an unexpected movement down the deserted beach, and I see a figure approaching-- a man, with a dog perhaps. I stop my drudge toward the water, paralyzed by the intrusion.
As they get closer, I see the jogging man is young, about Major’s age, tall, and lanky. He is oozing vitality from his movements, full with possibilities, like a fresh morning. Instantly, I hate him. He smiles and waves a greeting, prepared to run by, and I squeeze my eyes shut, shutting him out, and buzzing with the desire to be here alone again. Me, and Major.
I feel the large dog’s damp hair brush against my leg and reluctantly open my eyes to its large affectionate face. There is a wet ball in its mouth, and its tail wags profusely. I want to cry. The animal has no idea that I am no longer a real person. I am a haint, like the ones that my Creole mother used to tease me about, slowly disappearing, piece by piece. The dog sniffs the plastic container, and I instinctively flinch, and pull my evaporated, fine boy-man closer to me.
“She’s harmless and just wants to play,” the jogger calls to me.
I touch her warm fur and the feeling shocks me, because it is soft and comforting. I bend down and throw the dropped ball to the young man. I am surprised that I send a half-smile in his direction.
“She’s a sweet dog,” I call, shocked by my own, almost normal voice, and my capacity to actually speak.
The man and his companion disappear down the darkening coastline.
The day is leaving. Violet and pink hues join the sky over the orange half-sun, slipping lower beyond the horizon, and I know the circle of light, will be gone in a moment. I start again, toward the prospect in front of me, waves jockeying and crashing together with more purpose now. The churning, not like a still river, but is undulating, risking everything to throw itself upon some hard beach. It would always be striving. My feet finally meet the more formidable, and sturdy wet sand. They no longer sink, but now leave prints and depressions, where the foam from the waves can settle.
I walk further into the blue sea, Major, disintegrated, sieved into this plastic bag at my side. The sounds of his blood hitting the windows, his bones shattering as his body slams on the concrete pavement, defecating after death, the alcohol rushing through his veins—all now silent, reduced to shimmering sand and fine powder. I open the bag. We no longer have names, him and I, false monikers bestowed, recycled like shiny trash, turned new in us. We are force and matter. I let the grains fall through my fingers into the water, baptizing the darkness, and the wind and salt-water carry them away, claiming them, as the waves in darkness push me up, the sea-foam licking my skin.
What could life do to me now? I could stand in a fire and not be consumed.