Salt Spring Island
  Adan Jerreat-Poole

When I told him we couldn’t have sex that weekend, he understood. “I’m sure we’ll find other ways to entertain ourselves,” he said.

“Oh yeah, we could play bridge.”

“I don’t know how. What about gin rummy?”

He never got my jokes. We played gin rummy; we thought it would be fitting to drink gin and lemonade. I fanned my jacks across the hardwood as he made the deck symmetrical. “Rummy’s how I learned to count my 5s,” I told him.

“I learned on white pine needles.”

The lemonade had seeds and pieces of rind floating in it, and almost no sugar. I wondered; if you stuck a metal wire in me, would I be electric? I could power a small reading lamp, perhaps, or portable fan.

Outside it was spitting, a phlegmatic head cold of a storm. The sky was like a TV with unsteady cable- you aren’t quite sure what colour it should be, but are unable to shake the feeling of intense dissatisfaction with its appearance.

I kept checking my reflection in the tarnished colander. I couldn’t remember if I had finished doing my make-up. I imagined myself with one half of a face smooth and pale, the other red and splotchy. These are the sort of things I worried about- did I leave the hair straightener on? Did I pack my swimsuit? I had to check about 8 times to be sure. He worried about deeper things, like getting testicular cancer.

“Mind if I make dinner?” he asked slowly, when we were both good and drunk. One of his sleeves was rolled past the elbow.

“Only this once,” I giggled.

“But I always make dinner.” He looked at me quizzically. I sucked on a stray piece of lemon.

As he boiled the water for pasta I nuzzled into his shirt, smelling him. His ears moved up a few millimetres and I knew he was smiling. I watched him for a few minutes, this domestic figure. He always wore his alcohol like a heavy blanket, making him slower and steadier. I quickly grew bored.

“Let’s play a game.”

“We just played one,” he pointed out.

“Let’s play another one, a more exciting one.”

“I’m in the middle of making dinner.”

I lay on the floor making paper cranes out of newspaper. He set a large glass of water beside me. Gin always gave me terrible headaches.

“Thank you,” I said.

That night we lay beside each other, not having sex, not even touching. “This is what we’ll be like when we’re old,” I told him. He snored. I curled up into my pillow, frustrated. His breathing reminded me of a fan, a kind of white noise that helped me get to sleep. Shadows rode the waves of the walls; I watched them until I began to feel seasick. His body was hot beside mine. Soon I slept too.

When I awoke he was already making omelettes. His fully clothed body made me notice things I never ordinarily would: that my nipples caught the fabric of my old, thin t-shirt, that my underwear bunched in the back, that I didn’t own a belt.

“Good morning.” He passed me a cup of coffee. I touched his waist and lower back and chest until I was banished to the porch for being a distraction. It was another slimy day. I built a pyramid out of pale pink stones and then knocked it down. For a moment the scattering stones were a pearl necklace breaking over tile floor. Then stillness.

“Breakfast’s ready,” a voice called.

“Time out’s over?”

“You weren’t in a time out. I just said I can’t cook when you’re touching me.”

“Can’t think straight with me around?”

“That too.”

He ate his eggs one methodical piece at a time, dividing his portion into perfect squares. “There’s egg in your hair,” he told me. I swatted at it. He shook his head and returned to the newspaper. “What happened to the sports section?” I pointed to the ceiling, where a flock of cranes were swinging in mock flight.

Later, after we had finished a 500 piece puzzle and another pot of coffee, I was bored again. “I think I’ll take a nap,” he said.

“I want to go swimming,” I countered.

“It’s cold out.”

“It’s not that cold,” I argued.

“It isn’t safe.”

“You aren’t my mother.”

“Well I’m not letting you go swimming alone, wait until I wake up.”

“Fine.” I jumped up and headed for the door.

“Where are you going?”

“For a walk. Is that okay, Dad?”

“Don’t call me that.”

The screen door slammed behind me, which I hadn’t intended. I wanted to re-open it and explain the architecture of the place and the current wind speed, but thought better of it. Outside the dullness of the day slid over my skin like fish oil. I wandered down to the seaside thinking that we were children. He was playing house, and I was simply playing. I skipped a few stones but they sank immediately. He always corrected my wrist angle, and then we could send them 8, 9, 10 jumps across the surface. I stuck my bare feet into the tide.

The water was cold.

Several minutes passed under the sails of starving gulls. A figure joined me on the beach. I noticed immediately that it was wearing sandals.

“I’ll watch if you want to swim,” he told me, looking out at the sea, his voice thin in the face of its fullness.

“I don’t want to go swimming.”

He nodded as if I’d said something very important. I wondered if he couldn’t sleep without my restless rustling and shifting. We stood there, silent, watching the water. Our two shadows were almost touching, but not quite. They seemed like they might join, one overlapping the other. I wondered if they would ever fit together perfectly, or if that was even possible.

Somewhere to the left of us, up the sandy bank, a piece of earth came dislodged and plunged into the sea. From where it had fallen I expected to see a scar, like you see in The Ecologist, a gash in the landscape, a bleeding wound. Instead it was perfectly smooth. I couldn’t decide if it was lovely or not.

“Almost time for lunch.” His words fell heavy onto the beach.

“I want to collect some shells to decorate the table.”

“That would be nice.” He refrained from reminding me to wipe my feet when I came inside. I tracked sand everywhere, an irresponsible child. Still, he didn’t move, just adjusted his weight, making a crunching sound that was oddly reassuring. I thought maybe I wouldn’t come inside, wouldn’t break the silence between us that was almost comfortable.

We stood there for a very long time, just watching our shadows ripple in the shallow water. Adjacent, but not touching. Everything pastel and grey. I wondered what we must look like to the gulls: two infinitely small figures with blue mouths, staring into the waves and shivering. Dark specks on a pale land.

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