Some of you will have read this before – it’s a short story I wrote based on the influence music can have at certain points in our lives. The following story is based on what I associate with this song:
My story is NOTHING like the video, by the way.
TO THE WATER*
I brake hard when I see the exit and turn sharply to the left. The car behind honks the horn and you yell abuse out of the window. I laugh and the dog barks, pressing her velvet black nose against the glass behind me, leaving snail-trails as she goes. She knows where we’re headed, even if I’m not totally sure.
I haven’t been here for a long time but the narrow curves of this side road are familiar. I seem to remember we spent a lot of time here last summer but I couldn’t drive then and to be honest, I concentrated more on the music and the rough skin of your palm on my bare thigh than on the road.
You haven’t wound the window up yet and I can smell the bitterness of the sea on the sharp evening breeze. It’s almost summer now, so the nights are getting longer again; the sun’s descent into the ocean slowing to a creeping fall. Even so, by the time we’re finished and head back to the car, it will be dark. This in mind, I lower my foot a little – I want us to be by the water when the day sinks behind the horizon.
“Oh desert speak to my heart, oh woman of the earth…” Your singing is diabolical, so off key, like a cat’s howl. But it makes me smile so I turn the volume up and join you, though I sound little better.
“Maker of Children who weep for love, maker of this birth.”
The dog is over-excited as we pull into the car park and I turn off the ignition. I look at you and grin but there seems to be no time to talk – the creature in the back will not be denied her freedom. She’s barking and ricocheting off every conceivable surface. Eventually she realises there’s a gap between the front seats and charges for that but she doesn’t count on it being too thin for her broad Alsatian shoulders. We laugh, then you get out and swing your seat forwards. She bounds from my rusting, old car and goes tearing towards the beach without a backwards glance. You chuckle fondly and watch with such kind attention that I can not help but imagine you watching your children.
I don’t bother locking the car and without waiting for you, I go racing after the dog, laughing, calling for her and slapping my thighs with pantomime enthusiasm. You watch me run and then, after a moment of careful consideration, give chase. You’re faster than me and throw yourself around my waist, tackling me to the ground. I squeal and try to wriggle away, sand creeping into the folds of my clothes and getting stuck in my hair. I spit out a mouthful and cough as I taste the sea. All the while we’re laughing.
You let me go for a second and I half crawl, half stumble away. I am breathless. You get up and stand doubled over, rest for a second then follow, knocking me from my feet again. The dog chooses now to return, thinking that this is a wonderful game, devised solely for her amusement. She paws at us and snaps playfully, licking any exposed skin and tugging on loose clothes. When she has finally had enough, the three of us sit panting in the sand, gathering our thoughts and remaining shreds of dignity.
The air is cooling and the red sunlight, reflected on the waves, looks like a million scattered rubies. I try to shake the sand from myself and turn to you with a little smirk as I run my fingers through my hair. Neither of us has said a word yet and it seems wrong to somehow. The moment itself, the tension and the electricity, say more than we eloquent mammals possibly could. Above us the greying sky is freckled with the first stars and other than your beloved dog’s breathing, all I can hear are the waves and the thick bass of my racing heart.
It’s been so long since last time – almost a year has passed in fact. I wonder absently if it will be the same, if your lips will still taste like the cola you’re always drinking. I do not entertain the concept of maybe. This is inevitable. Just as the moon will rise, as she will wax and wane and the tide will ebb and flow, we will kiss and it will be everything. I allow myself a little chuckle at my sudden poetical leanings and then concentrate on you again, and your beautiful blue eyes. You do not ask me why I laughed – you understand me well enough to know I will not tell you.
And I know you well enough to know that you want to pull me close to your chest so that you can stroke my hair and kiss my face. But I also know that you’re afraid. You made a mistake before and you’re terrified of repeating it. And all the while I’m terrified of letting the perfection of this second slip away, unfulfilled, leaving us both disillusioned.
“Tell me you still love me,” I command, bold as ever. Your eyes are the same colour as the greying sea. My words hang heavy in the air and play again through my mind. I look at you, trying to read your perpetual frown.
“I can’t.” You cast aside my command as simply as that. I realise in this moment that I am no longer your Princess, no longer your black eyed angel.
My heart feels ready to explode. There’s a burning in my chest that spreads to every limb and rots numbly in my stomach. My breathing quickens until I feel as if I’m panting again. I bite my bottom lip, screw my eyes tight-shut and wait for the sudden feeling of nausea to pass. I dare to look again, take a deep breath and remind myself that a lot can happen in a year and that you might not be the person I knew after all. Perhaps you have found someone. I force myself to concentrate on the horizon. I try to rationally explain away all the wonderful feelings I’ve had tonight, but my hysterical thoughts fail me. I look back at you, trying not to appear too broken.
“I’ll show you I love you,” you whisper.
Relief floods over me in the same instance that curiosity takes hold of all my senses. I watch you intently, waiting for whatever magical act you’re about to perform. The world around me no longer exists and as clichéd as it may sound, there is only you.
You pull a scratched and scarred leather box from your pocket. You offered that ring to me before – Christmas day as we lay in bed you gave me all I’d ever wanted and I denied you the light and rainbows ending we had both longed for. I will not be so foolish again. I remember the cloudy emerald and the matt silver band of the antique ring. I think, as I did when I pointed to it in the shop window, that it will look stunning on my slim, pale fingers…
But you’re standing up. You toss the box with all your strength into the water. It goes for about ten metres, then there is a little splash and it’s gone – probably forever. I look at you, askance.
“That ring was offered by another me to another you. Please, let’s just start again.” It sounds scripted, like you’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Still, I can’t help but stare, wondering where this sudden courage has come from – I know you now as a man of awkward silences and twiddling thumbs. It had been different back then, of course, but you had never been as decisive and articulate as this. I offer you a smile as my acceptance, the baton of ineloquence now firmly in my hands. You help me up and clinging to your arm, as if all my strength has gone from me, we walk back to the car, your dog hot on our heels.
We will kiss, but not now. We will go home, but not now. Now we will hear the rest of the song and we sing as loudly as we can. Your hand rests on my leg as I press my foot to the floor and hear my wheels spin in the sand.
“Run to the water, find me there,
Burnt to the core but not broken
With a nuclear fire of love in my heart
Rest easy baby, rest easy
Recognise it all as light and rainbows
Smashed to smithereens but be happy.”
*Run to the Water – Live, The Distance to Here, 1999