There’s salt on our tongues, and unspoken spectres. The surface is luminous, warm mercury. Cold and obscure underneath.
You follow me. I have the upper-hand. Ocean isn’t second nature when you’ve grown up in the Ukraine; the only water lingering on your skin came from a tap.
Guilt weighs like a python on my diaphragm, coils around my heart, disrupts its rhythm. It’s been days now, of waiting for the right moment to deliver the cut, “I’m done.”
Tough brown seaweed weaves around us, unnerving and sulfuric.
Suddenly you’re thrashing wildly, spinning circles in the fronds. Then you’re off, swimming like a lunatic, straight out to sea.
I follow you, arms pounding through the water, grab your heel and pull you around.
Trust focuses your senses and keeps you beside me as we aim for shore. In the lapping shallows, we see the box jelly fish wrapped around your arm, its tentacles caught under the waterproof watch I gave you the day your permanent residency came through.
Stings meander like dense, red snail-tracks over your pale flesh.
Then you’re down, long blonde hair splayed over the sand. “A dangerously large surface area,” they tell us in ICU.
I became your safe shore, for a time, afterwards, anchoring you to our landform and to all we formed.
But for years, it’s my resentment’s done the stinging, snared beneath our status-quo. Did they tell you it’s the chemicals on skin that prompt nematocysts to release their toxins?
Now it’s me who’s flailing in the deep green, swimming haywire, further out to sea. Just waiting for somebody to turn me around.