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The Black Sea


The black sea does not forget.

“I can hear the sea,” I say.

Sarah tries to conceal her tears by dabbing at them with her sleeve. She takes a deep breath and smiles. But it is not genuine, not the smile I fell in love with, not the smile where her nose wrinkles and my heart stops beating.


I have known Sarah forever. She taught me to swim, not laughing when I arrived with orange inflatable armbands. Unabashed, we stripped to our underwear. Despite there being no real disparity in our physiques at that age, there was something different about her flesh, something alluring that always held me captivated.

Creeping into the water, one apprehensive step at a time, I slipped on a slimy rock and gasped. Sarah smiled and clasped her knees in her arms, she crashed into the river, engulfing me with freezing water. I gasped again, struggling to catch my breath as she reappeared from the glassy depths, laughing and splashing. She captivated me with stories of the sea, the squawking gulls, the waves rolling up the sandy beach and she promised that one day we would go.

On the morning of my fifteenth birthday, Sarah arrived carrying a rucksack, smiling, her freckled nose wrinkling as it always did.

“We can’t go to the beach!” I spluttered.

“Why not?”

“It’s miles away.”

“But they have this new invention. I saw it on the T.V last night. It’s called a bus.”

Amid the gaggles of children and lobster pink cellulite, we changed under our towels, laughing nervously at our new-found self-consciousness. I couldn’t help but glance at her breasts and envy the water that lapped against them. Sarah leapt on my back, and I struggled to keep my head above the choppy waves. I gripped her soft thighs, and my heart pounded. She did elegant handstands, her long brown legs stretching out from the glassy sea and I ached to touch them again.

“Want to walk out to the island?” she asked, slapping water into my face.

Pretending that I wanted to swim a little more, I waited in the obscuring security of the sea for my erection to wane.

We climbed the steps to the summit of the island where the wind whipped Sarah’s hair around her face and snatched our voices. We sat on the highest hill, watching a water skier zigzag across the water, shouting to a girl in the back of the boat. Sarah put her arm around my shoulders and twisted my hair around her fingers. Heedful of the stirring in my shorts I got up and walked to the edge of the cliff, my hands thrust into my pockets.

About 30 feet below in the shadow of the cliff, the sea looked dark and mysterious, its waves beating out a savage, primitive rhythm on the rocks. I forced my head out farther, shuffling my feet closer to the edge, trying to penetrate the gloom, hypnotised. Without a sound, time stopped, the cliff side crumbled, and I toppled forward, my arms flapping to balance myself. Desperately I clutched at the air, hoping it would become tangible enough to save me. I heard Sarah scream before it was lost in the whoosh of the wind as I fell.

I fought to breathe, but my lungs found only water. As the weight of the rucksack dragged me deeper, I extended my hand, trying to grasp the rippled blue of the sky before it was obliterated by the black sea.

When I came around Sarah was above me, her hair stuck to her face. I coughed and retched until there was nothing left until I thought I would turn inside out.

“You jumped?”

“You didn’t come up.”

“But you jumped?”

“You were drowning.”


For the last thirty years, Sarah has stood resolutely beside me, holding my hand, guiding me through the grey fog of depression following my father’s death, through the alcoholic stupor that ensued after losing my business in 2005. She has always been there, dragging me back from the abyss which having tasted me has pursued me relentlessly, whispering from the darkness, coveting me.

The tide is rushing in, devouring the bed on which I lie, and I can feel the waves beating against me again, dragging me down into the murky depths. With sallow, cold fingers the black sea is summoning me, and though I can feel Sarah clasping my hand, wiping the blood from by mouth, attempting to drag me from its grip, to pluck me again from the abyss, her attempt is futile. The black sea will not relinquish me again, and even my unfaltering Sarah cannot release me from the debt I owe it.

Published in Crack The Spine 2014

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