Friday, 10 July 2009

SNAPSHOT: The Memory

He jumps up, arches his frame. Fingertips spliced in missile formation, they slice the water first, trailed by the length of his lithe limbs. He hits the water hard and swims for several minutes beneath the silvery surface. His salt-and-pepper hair re-emerges behind the sharp strikes of each arm. Intermittently, his head turns to the left and right with every stroke. The splashes slapping about him create a cacophony of latte foam. His breathing measured; a humming sound matches the rhythm and tempo of successive breaths. As he twists his head from left to right, his narrow streamlined beard offers up the truth of a man in his forties. There is a severe energy in his movement through the pool. As if a legion of purple spirits are soaring through his veins. His motion akin to a man running away from some grave torment, on the other hand, could he be running towards a secret salvation? Under belligerent rays of the flickering sun pouring through the glass panels, his skin glistens with the vigour of a possessed being. On closer observation: his sunken cheeks strain tautly; pale eyes brim brightly, bristling with the tingle of tears and the sting of chlorine. Halfway through this joust, his body jerks, he sputters; coughing desperately as the prickling sensation creeps from nostril to cerebral cavity. He stops trashing and rolls onto his back. His breathing calmer, he closes his eyes, paddling the water with half-cupped palms. He begs silence to fill his consciousness. Instead, his shoulders sag as the memory invades the space which manic adrenalin has kept at bay since entering the wet for his early morning swim. The memory of crescent crimson fingernail fills his mind as he drifts nowhere.


It must have broken when she slipped from the iron railings. While he struggled to hold on, her manicured nails caught his wrist, leaving a pronged scarlet streak above his watch strap. Hanging on to her right elbow with his left hand was difficult. Hang in there, he repeated again and again, as much to himself as to the stranger. Seconds earlier, from a short distance, he spotted the woman in the yellow dress perched on the railings. Swaying from side to side, it was as if she was hypnotised by the sun’s molten basin. Distracted by the sudden shrill squawk of a Welsh seagull, he looked skyward, tripped over a rock and landed on all fours. Wiping off the grit from his denim, a soundless fart hatched, escaped. When he turned again towards the iron barrier, the woman had clear disappeared. All he saw was the glint of yellow cloth tangled in the railings. Picking up his feet – he raced towards the yolk shimmer. When he got to her, the greenest expression of desperation looked up at him as he grabbed hold of her arm. He shouldn’t have done it, she said, punctuating each word with thin gasps.

Ignoring the stones chewing his knees, it wasn’t long before the twinge in his back arrived (an old injury from a motorbike accident). At this point he knew it would soon be over. He couldn’t hold on for much longer. He began to sing a Jeff Buckley tune. Her features softened with his soothing off-key growl. She was a striking woman. In her early twenties, he imagined. His grubby hand started slipping until it clasped her thin tapered fingers. Sweat dripped, large globules falling on her dark dank mane in baptismal splatter. The twinge in his back gained in sharpness. He should never have raced that day. Through dry lips he let out a heavy gauche wheeze.
-He shouldn’t have done it, she repeated.
He stopped singing.
-There’s no one to look after the goldfish, she said next.
-What’s your name?
-Louise Palmer. But everyone calls me Lou.
Again silence. He stiffened, heard the creak in his clavicle. It was as if the weight of the inevitable made her heavier with the passing of time. A tumultuous energy ebbed between the two. A generation apart, nothing connected these two unlikely companions and yet both were linked by circumstance, an invisible membrane of fate.
-I should thank you, she interrupted his mute thoughts.
-The name’s Ruben Jessop, he smiled, hoping it might give her some comfort.
-Thank you, Mr Ruben Jessop, she said, while he curled his thick fingers tight – tighter.

The decision made. Unable to look at the horror blanching her expression he counted – one, two, three, and let go. She let out a shriek which he didn’t hear – couldn’t hear because of the multiple screams exploding within him as he sank to the ground staring at his splayed fingers, overcome with a strange grief. In his furled agony he wondered if she hadn’t been a stranger, if she had been his sister or even a friend, would he have mustered up the strength to hold on for that bit longer. Perhaps it was because he had nothing to lose, his will to preserve a life he had never known had let her down in the end. While these thoughts accused him in the ironic emptiness that now surrounded him, he glimpsed the ruby chapped nail peering back at him.

Catherine Mark


Strawberry Girl said...

How terrible, the subject, but how well written! I love the powerful imagery Cath. :D

Lianne said...

As I finished reading I realized that I had been holding my breath. Incredible Catherine. Is this part of a larger work? I will take some time this weekend to properly check out your blog.

Thanks for your comment on my post. Fingers crossed that we actually can afford the cute little house.

English Hopeful said...

OOOOO Cath! This was beautiful! I love how you have written this. At first I thought it was two separate stories but was surprised to find they are not. Well done!

Ponderer said...

He swam to escape the memory, alas those never leave our memories. Very griping Cath, Cheryl

Linda S. Socha said...

TYhis is so powerfully gripping it is painful to read. I read it twice and then again! Extremely well done

Calli said...

Very intriguing writing, Cath. A wonderfully detailed snapshot. Love that!

and welcome back! ...also thank you so much for your visit and comment today. Must be IE let you in this time...:) very cool!

peace & sunshine~

kenflett said...

it's like running from someone, scared, and excited.
A beautiful passionate story Cath.

Cynthia said...

Oh My gosh Catherine, this story
was so shocking! I couldn't read
it fast enough. You wrote a very
brave ending. Thank you for
this escape.

Jenny said...

Hi Cath,

Powerful and scary! I like your writing. You have your personal style. Well done!

Oh, and thank you for leaving a nice comment on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Powerful portrait of a defining moment. I have to agree with Lianne. I, too, was holding my breath as I read. I think I'm still holding it, trying to grasp the weight of the ending.

It's all about letting go, it seems. Life and death are all about holding on and letting go. Thank god we don't consciously wrestle with those choices every day.

Interesting writing.


Anonymous said...

Intriguing indeed. Well written; clear and concise, full of great imagery. The ending was unexpected but that's what makes a story unforgettable. Nice job!

Printemps said...

Evokes Rich Imagery Catherine! Well written...

Vancouver, Canada said...

Truly very powerful. Very well written..thanks so much for sharing sweetie..xx

Athelas said...

I really liked "severe energy" and "cerebral cavity." thrashing

JM said...

Glad you have the time to give us these fantastic stories again! I will ask you the same as Lianne: is this part of a larger work?

Selchie said...

Very sad, was holding my breathe too. I like the link beween the two parts, very unexpected and I like to be surprised.)

have a lovely day,