A Bit of Short Short Fiction: Treading Water
A short, short dark piece of fiction and a break from Camp NaNoWriMo. Copyright Beabe Thompson, 2017
An oversized glowing full-circle of a moon rose in the distance, its reflection amplified on the Gulf of Mexico. A tarnished silver pitted plate in the bright diamond-filled sky. Cool water at the ocean’s edge licked my toes, grounding me on a beach in the Florida Panhandle. Sea oats in the dunes behind me danced in a gentle offshore breeze that made them rustle and sing softly. It was a low mournful sound.
With so much beauty drowning me on my solitary beach walk, why did I want to die? Perhaps it was because the beauty washed over me like a slowly drowning man in a boundless ocean. It pushed to fill my nose, my mouth but met choking resistance. My resistance. Without hope, what use is beauty?
In the distant shoreline were condos filled with parties and friends, and there I stalked along the water’s edge contemplating suicide. If it weren’t for a terror of dark ocean waters, I might have taken a one-way swim out past the sandbars. But what might swim underneath was too much of a nightmare, even more than ending my life. Why end up as a shark’s dinner? I had to laugh darkly.
If I had a sane relationship with Mark, we might have been taking this walk together under the lover’s moon, hand in hand like a cheap romance novel. Instead, he was back with his friends, drinking, pretending we weren’t there together. I was left wondering why love made me feel foolish and desperate.
Infatuation, really, not love. A deep bone-marinating infatuation that made sane people beat on the doors of padded rooms.
Every moment with him had a weird chemical, physical reaction. I love you, why do you shove me away one minute, then want me another? Why is it you’re like oxygen and carbon monoxide? Life-giving one minute, slowly killing me the next.
The ocean had no answers for me, mute except for the wind and shorebirds looking for a late supper. I sat down on the sandblasted and bleached steps of an unseen condo. Without the moon, the night would be pitch black, not being able to see my hand in front of my face. Flashlights appeared from a nearby stair, and two people ambled towards me along the water’s edge, the light bobbing as they trod. They quietly murmured hello to me as they passed, almost inaudibly. They kept going, hand in hand, feet making soft noise in quartz sand. My head turned, my gaze followed them, their shapes glowing in the moonlight. After while the flashlights’ beam winked out in the distance.
I sat until salt air coated me like a second skin. Fingercombing strands of my hair were fruitless; they were tangled, stuck, and twisted like a crazed Gordian Knot. The uselessness of my depression finally shoved me upright and pushed me towards our condo. If Mark made me feel this awful, it was time to leave him. For good.
No more breakups and tearful reunions. Mark’s brain worked straight in a direct line, logic, order, reputation, control, career, safety, money. Mine more frantic, wandering, searching, zigzagging, desiring. We were never meant to be together except for chemistry. Chemistry is a heartless bitch. There’s nothing right brained about how she puts people together, then allows reality to rip them apart with tiny, razor-like teeth. Scientists and romanticists are polar opposites, not ideal partners, not actually capable of true compromise or compatibility. Or at least in our case.
That’s where we were. Attracted by chemistry, pulled apart by brainwaves. It was slowly making me mad and driving Mark further away.
“I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you.” He told me. Heartfelt, a rare trip into a closed, secretive heart. It gave me false hope. I drowned in him, and he’d throw me a short rope. Some days the lifeline was dropped, and I tread alone deep waters, wondering what circled beneath in the depths of the sea. Maybe love frightened him with its illogical path and the rope burned until he released it.
There were no answers. Sometimes we fall in love with mad people, addicts, lost causes. We love them until they break us, and then we can’t. Or stay until we die outwardly or inward.
I had no answers. Love should never make you think suicide is a rational answer to heartache. There’s nothing good or rational about it. Romantic death is garbage old poets and novel writers fed us in ornately wrought spoons. Here, sip this, feel despondent, freeze to death like the Lady of Shallot, waste away like a tubercular lover of the Victorian Age pining for his love. Propaganda for the ministry of the devil.
Mark’s and my obsession would remain dark until one of us came to our senses and walked away. Unfortunately, I had the common sense of a thimble.
I stumbled back to the pitch black and empty condo. Voices and lights came from houses to the left, right, and the streets behind. Parties and music blaring. A sheriff’s deputy stalked the parking areas, searching for reported rabble-rousers, following the sound of thumping music. His patrol car was left running, lights glaring.
I fell asleep with the drapes of our room open, the moon boasting its light, filling the otherwise stygian dark. A generous nightcap of vodka flavored poison for my dreams.
Morning came. I was no longer alone.