By Bethany Cody
Briny waves caress the shoreline. I hear the crash and fizz as we stroll towards the decaying jetty. I smell it before we get there, the cloying funk of dead things the ocean spat up like a fussy baby – leftover bait from amateur fishermen, seagull poo, tangled ropes of gelatinous seaweed. I tell Ramzy I want to dip my toes in the water. He says it’s too cold and reminds me that we didn’t come here to swim.
It’s frustrating. I can’t see his expression. Everything is cast in shadow, suggestions of shapes that shimmer and shy away the more I try to focus. Although I can’t see him, I feel the bite in his words. He gets away with so much more now when we fight. But he can’t hide it in his voice. It wasn’t even my idea to come.
Last week his mother called and said it’d be good for us to get out of the house and spend some quality time together. We haven’t been to the beach in years. I waited just outside of our bedroom as they talked, eavesdropping.
I caught the tail end of her voice.
‘…it’ll be just like before.’
Ice ran through me.
Now the beach is just as cold. The breeze picks up. I cling to him, our arms entwined. He tells me there’s an old phone booth near the kiosk and I perk up.
‘Like the Tardis?’
Silence swallows us again.
I taste rain in the air, feel the shift in atmosphere. Its oppressive presence against my bare arms raises goose bumps and turns my curly hair frizzy. Ramzy says the mountains are a brilliant deep blue, like the rippling water. The, ‘I wish you could see it,’ sits on his tongue. I taste it when he kisses me.
The market is quiet. Stallholders chat amongst themselves while the occasional group wanders by. Seagulls fly overhead, squawking, circling, hunting for hot chips. We agree to get coffee to warm ourselves up. I can tell Ramzy is getting tired of holding my arm and guiding me along the boardwalk, his body stiff against mine. I let go and clutch the handle of my white cane tightly instead. I wonder if I’m making an ugly face. He doesn’t ask about it.
We stop by a popular coffee van and the barista takes our order with forced enthusiasm. The world feels grey. The coffee tastes grey too. I eat Ramzy’s complimentary marshmallow, letting it slowly dissolve in my mouth. I’ve always hated them.
As we head back for the car park, I feel a growing desperation, an overwhelming swell of emotion threatening to sink me where I stand. There’s a marble in my throat. It’s hard to get the words out.
‘I’m still me.’
He’s silent at my side.
‘I’m blind but I’m not broken.’
I hear the rustling of his jacket, like he’s uncrossing his arms. His sigh caresses the wetness on my face. ‘I know.’
“I’m sorry.” It slips past my trembling lips.
I don’t know what I’m apologising for.
This piece was shortlisted in the 2021 mindshare Awards, presented by mindshare, Writers SA, Access2Arts, and the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia. More info here.