She had a memory of the ocean. She never forgot. But she forgot the words, though she remembered the impressions. She remembered the feeling of the waves that enveloped her. She remembered the feeling of the water like a second skin. She remembered that she could slide through something soft, cold, and dark, like a velvet curtain wrapped around her body. If you had asked her to name it, she would not know what to say. She would only try to describe the sensations and flounder about for language. But it is the ocean that she remembers. And it is the water that she was longing for.
She did not remember having been stolen out of the sea. So many years had passed. There was only the restlessness inside and the haunting sensations. Sometimes she would wake in the morning and feeling the earth sliding back and forth under her legs, a feeling of seasickness. She would place her hand on her stomach and heave over, falling to her knees and would break into a sweat. Her husband woke up and put his hand on her back. He would sing a song soft and low and it would soothe her. The ground would stop its undulations and she would feel the steadiness of the land return to her. The solidity of things returned and she would crawl back into bed.
He did not know she was a sea creature either. The island where they lived was harsh. The winds blew most days and carried a mist of sea salt over the land, enshrouding them in the fog. He worked as a fisherman and was most days out before the sun had risen and come back late after dark.
She worked in the town, baking bread and pastries. The bakery was alongside the sea and she swam each morning after the morning bake. The water would hold her in its grip. It was a ritual that she needed to make it through the day, but even then she did not know from where she came.
Her husband had learned the song that he sang to her when he was out in a storm. He went out in his blue fishing boat like any other weekday. The water was choppy but he wasn’t afraid. His boat contained old nets, nets he’d inherited from his father. The nets had been patched and mended. They were barnacle-encrusted. They had taken on the colors of the sea, green and blue stains. After motoring out to the edge of the bay, where the waters turned from the sleepy tides of the enclosed bay into the wild ocean, he dropped the nets into the water. The sky being what it was, a blanket of clouds with grey and ominous face, he did not intend to leave the safety of the bay. But the tides had other plans for him and pulled him out as the rain began to pound him. he could hardly stand under the weight of all the water falling from the sky. The sky became dark, the clouds blocking out the sun. He who had honed his sense of direction, who prided himself on his migratory instincts toward true north, found himself disoriented in the darkness and the fever of water around him. He focused on just keeping the boat stable and himself from staying upright, and surrendered to the weather.
He heard the song then, while the storm was heaving. It seemed to rise from the water. The rain and wind were loud and so it surprised him that he could even hear anything else. It was a low-murmuring tune in a minor key. The tune was clear in his mind and it echoed within him. The tune seemed to keep time with the staccato of the raindrops. He hummed the words as he turned the rudder of the small boat and felt the water dripping off of his raincoat into the puddle on the floor. Then just as suddenly as the rain started, it stopped and he found himself still in the water. The sun peeked through the heavy blanket of clouds as he pulled back the He pulled up the nets and he hadn’t caught anything. Just some old seaweed, a green mat that looked like an unkempt head of hair. His sense of direction returned and he paddled back to shore.
His wife was at the water’s edge when he returned. She looked sad, like she was longing for something. He knew that look and he had not known how to soothe her. He held out his arms to her and embraced her as stepped from the boat. He hummed the tune into her ear and she relaxed into him.
By Paul DeLong
On May 28, 2022
As usual you display your strong talent for evocative paragraph ending sentences that create powerful transition into the next paragraph: “But it is the ocean that she remembers. And it is the water that she was longing for.”
Your second paragraph is strong. It creates credibility and the necessary suspension of disbelief by giving us all the visceral reactions and sensations to the moments immersed in the loss of water.
“Her husband had learned the song that he sang to her when he was out in a storm. He went out in his blue fishing boat like any other weekday. The water was choppy but he wasn’t afraid. His boat contained old nets, nets he’d inherited from his father.” Somehow, probably in part from the ending of the previous paragraph that connects to this with her ritual in the water, there is an eerie almost mystical shift in the piece, building good suspense once again. From here, the story both in word and in inferences, shifts back and forth like a metronome between husband …
By Paul DeLong
On May 28, 2022
and wife. That you let the story do this rather than overplay it with words, is strong and evocative. The last paragraph portrays this yin-yang mood well, and of course, we feel most strongly the almost ennui-like longing of the female protagonist from the closing lines: “His wife was at the water’s edge when he returned. She looked sad, like she was longing for something. He knew that look and he had not known how to soothe her. He held out his arms to her and embraced her as stepped from the boat. He hummed the tune into her ear and she relaxed into him.” We feel the bond, and also the loss, within which she lives.
By Erin Esaryk
On May 30, 2022
Thank you so much, Paul!