Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Drowning Man

(The Drowning Man - The Cure)

He was already tiring when the undertow caught him. The sun was hot on his back and made the tops of the waves sparkle and turn into a hundred tiny mirrors. He had felt good at first, so good that he pushed on, longer and further than he had before. The sun was hot, and the water was clear, and he felt like he could go on forever.

Later, when he got back, he could tell her how far he had gone, and she would be surprised and impressed, although she wouldn’t show it because she wasn’t that kind of person. He would be brown off the sun, salty from the water, and most of all he would be the kind of positive man who did things and not the passive man he feared she had grown to despise. He hadn’t planned on being like that – when he was younger he had ambitions and plans and was going to leave his mark. But somehow the years slipped on, and the demands of life pressed in, and suddenly they had been together a very long time and he was just a very ordinary man. And she was tired of that, and there were other men who seemed more dynamic to her, although he knew they too would be ordinary, given time.

He had started swimming for fitness, ploughing in straight lanes up and down the local pool, avoiding children and meeting his targets. Then he started swimming for adventure: lakes and rivers, and then the sea. She encouraged him, and he took that to be a good sign, except when he was paranoid and worried that it was because it got him out of the way. But he dealt with his paranoia by swimming more, and swimming harder, and that was why he was where he was, slapping through the waves, feeling that he was making his mark, fighting the fatigue in his legs.

Then the undertow took him, like a push from below, a hand taking him, moving him. He splashed hard, fighting it, but he had swam too long and too far and his legs started to cramp, and he got his breathing wrong and inhaled sea water, and he coughed and cramped and struggled. The water didn’t care, it just took him and took him further. He stopped trying to swim, started to tread water, looked back towards the land, eyes stinging from the salt and the glare. The land was a narrow strip between the slate sea and the blue sky, and the houses and the roads looked like a diorama in a museum. 

He waved his arms but there was no-one there to see. He lay back in the water, exhausted, and let it carry him on. The sun was warm, and the water was warm, and it held him close and it carried him into itself.

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