The Weight Of Water
Whatever it was she wanted to tell him couldn’t be told over the phone. She wanted them to meet at the pier. She was twenty minutes late.
The water rippled its grey mass back and forth, the soft sound of it hitting the pier formed a rhythmic lullaby that hypnotised as the sunlight faded into the clouds, dropped to vanish behind the horizon.
Deep water pressure could kill a person, he knew. The upwards pressure of water could support vast ships. Extreme heat could break the bonds between atoms and halt the eternal trajectories of hydrogen and oxygen, making them steam which would, with grinding eventuality, become water again. And water cannot be compressed, he remembered reading. It cannot be made to take up less space than it does naturally; it simply resists pressure.
She was thirty minutes late.
They had met here, four years and five months ago. He had come in from the lake, moored the boat and looked up to see her there, sketching in that pad of hers.
“What’s that you’re drawing?” he’d asked.
“Pictures,” she had replied, and smiled.
He’d coiled the excess rope in a loop depending from his forearm. She’d returned her gaze to the pad. He could see the tip of a pencil bobbing to and fro as she worked. It started then, right there on the pier. She had drawn him, in more ways than one. The picture she did of him romanticised his rugged appearance, made him look like the sort of person he always wanted to be. Maybe the sort of person she’d always wanted him to be. He tried to look as good as the graphite strokes imagined him. Just an ounce or so of dark lead, so much more than fourteen stone of flesh and blood.
She wasn’t coming. That was what she had wanted to show him, he realised. He knew it was going to happen this way; that she would end it. As inevitable as dawn. He turned around on the end of the pier, looked about his surroundings, tried to take it what he was supposed to glean from them. It was grey, and the air was crisp and fresh, whipping over the water and leaving minute traces of salt on his lips. He could taste it with the tip of his tongue. “At the pier,” she’d said. “I have to show you something.” But there was nothing here to see.
He turned back to look up along the pier and the land beyond. There was a strangely solid, hollow clunk as a boat struck the pier; groaning as rope tethers stretched with the swell of the water. The smell of that morning’s catch reasserted itself from the old stones, themselves soaked in the smell of ancient days. It was all salt and water.
He knew enough of the old tales not to get worked up about a woman he’d met by the sea. They exist like water, amorphous and constantly changing. But it was still difficult. The water whispered again around the base of the pier, telling him secrets in its primeval language. Only truths have words so old as these.
He’d never see her again, he realised. And wondered if she’d left him any of her pictures. He’d miss them if she hadn’t. He liked seeing himself as she saw him, liked to look at the marks she made on paper and thinking, That’s me, in her eyes, through her hand.
She wasn’t here. In many ways, she never had been. She had flowed and boiled, nourished him and held him aloft, filled him and cleansed him, passed over him and through him and washed him up upon the pier.
In all this, she was water.
He hunched his shoulders against the rising wind and lifted his head backwards to allow the breeze to remove the hair from his eyes. The wind fell and it was silent awhile. The moon paused its labour and the ripples smoothed to glass. He breathed it in, and breathed it out.
Picking a direction, he began to walk.