Once upon a memory they sat back to back on the jagged rocks. One young girl and one young boy. She had blond hair and he likewise. They had been married a few days before and now they were on their honeymoon. They sat by the water as the waves crashed around them. The weather was inclement today and they had not dressed for this stormy interval. The skies were clear that morning. The cooler weather did not bother them as they were lost in daydreams. He would lick the salty residue of the sea’s spittle off her lower legs later that afternoon. She would complain about the small triangle of sun burn she had on her cleavage, he’d stop listening once she’d directed his attention towards her breasts. So it would always be as the years passed.
Their legs stretched out before them a physical embodiment of their future. Long and smooth youth of the upper thigh and then a mountain to overcome halfway through their union, they knew not what it would be but they would endure. His shin had some bumps pitted along the length, a few blips, as he would call them, to see through in later life. As for her, her shin bone was longer than his; she would spend the latter years of her life without him. But for now, they concentrated on where their pelvic bones met as they sat back to back on the jagged rocks.
She wore a navy top. He liked her in navy, commented on how it accentuated her eyes and her complexion and all the other platitudes a young man in love says to his new bride. After their special anniversary trip to the Caribbean when they’d drunk copious amounts of rum whilst listening to the steel drums around the campfire, he would never comment on how beautiful she looked in navy ever again. After that long together words were superfluous. She knew. She’d listened. Why say something the years of commitment and his daily actions proved true. His top was blue too. They saw a pod of dolphins in the distance and sighed. She reached back and held his hand, he brushed a finger over hers and that’s how they remained. Still daydreaming.
The sea ebbed and flowed, no longer thrashing sporadically and soon it would lap up against the rocky outcrop they were on. The overhead storm was passing and the grey clouds moving on. She would trail her fingers through the water, an absent act, her thoughts on colour charts and wallpaper samples. Crossing her legs at the ankles, she tipped her head back and rested it on his shoulder. He tilted his own, giving her a little loving headbutt. Unseen by her he played with the gold band on his finger. It felt odd. The sight of it was not commonplace in his mind but it wouldn’t take long before he never even noticed it. No longer could he smell her perfume, it was part of her. He’d notice its absence though. His thoughts turned to clean sheets and shower-damp skin.
In perfect accord they turned their heads and watched the two puffins land and then bob on the surface of the water. In unison they smiled. He moved forwards, breaking their contact and opened the backpack they’d bought with them. As she turned towards the sea, moving carefully on the jagged rock, she drew up her knees and hugged them in silent, private, delight at the moment and the moments she’d daydreamed about all morning. They had a fairytale future waiting for them and a catalogue of celebration ahead, more than they could even comprehend. Small things would hold hard at their hearts and memories and larger things would go unmarked. Cupped in her hands balanced on her knees, she held the cup of steaming coffee he’d just handed her. She smiled and chose a cheese sandwich, left the chicken ones for him. A ripped-open packet of crisps was spread between them. Their fingers touched as they tried to pick up the same crisp. He raised it to her lips and she ate it all. They didn’t do romance, she would never offer him half of anything. They took what each other offered with a silent thanks and gratitude. If he wanted a crisp he would get one. Such was how they lived their married life. Yes, they would take each other for granted as the future marched closer and their lives got horrendously busy but they knew the other was there. They didn’t need to speak aloud words of reassurance or banalities. Commitment spoke. Physical presence spoke. Puffins form long-term relationships.
The silence was glorious although they did not know it then. Memory would sharpen it. They didn’t know it because they assumed they would always have perfect moments like this. Naively they assumed that the stress and exhaustion planning a wedding had caused them was the worst it could possibly be. She handed her cup over to him for a refill and he did so inattentively, thinking about dinner that evening and how pleasurable the days were with nothing to do and nowhere to be apart from what they decided. Lazy days as they were coined. He’d long for them in a few short years to come. However, the longing would not preclude his desire to remain exactly in the moment, whatever that moment was, experiencing all. He would never wish to be anywhere other than where he was, he would never allow memories to rule his present or hinder his future actions. To be happy was to be happy. All else excluded. Just be happy. The silence could impede his thoughts but the silence could also calm his thoughts and allow him to be. He was happy being him. Artifice was not something he employed. It would serve him well.
As he re-packed the bag she stood and dusted off the crumbs from her shorts. He watched, paused, thought, smiled and then continued with his administrations. Turning, he set back off along the rocky outcrop, the beach was only a short distance away and the car was parked not much further than that. He knew she would follow. No hand was extended in some poetic gesture of gentlemanly conduct, she’d managed to walk perfectly well before she’d met and married him. She’d speak up if she needed help and he likewise. As she jumped down from the rocks onto the beach, she looked up and smiled. He reciprocated. The puffins took flight.
The sun warmed him and he took off his sweater, tying it around his waist, then swung the backpack up, adjusting the shoulder straps. He set off across the beach. He felt her hands on his waist and heard her giggle behind. Her stunted movements were slowing him down but he didn’t care. There was no rush. She was placing her feet into the prints left by his. He didn’t question why. She was being silly. She was happy. No explanation needed. They reached the car, he went for the driver’s side and she the passenger door. They would drive and then stop when they fancied a bottle of wine, nowhere in particular, no specific spot pre-marked in their guide book. As they pulled out of the car park she looked back at the jagged rock she had been sitting on, daydreaming on and smiled, as the road stretched out long and isolated in front of them she turned on the radio.
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Photo by Tomek Dzido