It’s eighteen months now, since I looked out over the beach, iridescent with early morning light, and saw helicopters suspended low in the sky, hovering.A drowning, I thought, then corrected myself, no, it must be a spinal injury. I must have just missed it, for I was still wet and salty and just returned home.
Someone has gone over one of those muscular waves and it has crushed their bones, their little spiny bones and now they will be strapped to a board and flown off.
But I had been right in the first instance, it was a drowning to which the helicopters had been summoned.
The helicopters buzzed motionless in the air. It wasn’t my ocean that claimed somebody's breath, though. No. It was the rain.
Rain in the shell-shaped paddling pool, into which baby Maia had fallen into, on her two year old legs. Down the back steps in a flash, to the little pool which had been empty the evening before, it was rain that filled her nose and mouth, and she, in those few seconds had been unable to lift her head free of the fallen sky. That puddle.
In an instant.
There was no more Maia playing in the rockpools, cupping sand in her small caramel-coloured hands.
Next day, standing in my kitchen, talking with my mother, the world fell silent as I stared at a newspaper page which had blown onto the floor, and I looked at the couple in the picture, upside down.
It seemed to be a picture of me at 20, with my long hair and yellow dress, leaning forward, smiling into the camera in that guileless way I had, the two of us all luminous smiles. How had the papers gotten this? I wondered. It didn’t make an ounce of sense? As I stood staring, puzzling, my mother continued talking
Oh, did you think that was you and X? I had to look twice myself…look, it’s that couple that lost their little girl.
And when I turned the picture right way up I saw that it was not me, but Sammi and Carlo, Maia’s parents, not a ghost of myself at all. This disturbed me, it seemed to be a warning, a strange emissary from the past
look what never happened to you, see what you escaped from...
Carlos and Sammi went away for some time. They visited their families overseas. They travelled.
They set to the business of loving, evidently: next time I saw Sammi, some months later, she was holding her belly in two hands, and it was full of baby.
Sammi grew and grew, until she was as brown and round and shiny as a walnut. She sat on the sand in the morning light, watching Carlo in the waves.
Last week as I was passing Carlo burst from the sea like a flying fish, a dancing dervish:
He is here, he is here! She had him in the water, like a fish!
Baby Kai swam right out of Sammi, and Carlo caught him.
Today I got to see the baby, as I was standing in the sun by the sea. His darling little feet, his dear head with a whirl on the back, the packetty bottom. The sound of the waves. The sea whispering,
How could you think such ill of me?
But i did not answer. before me was beautiful fish boy, a beautiful boy. Beneath the endless blue of a vast Autumn sky.
He lived in Trenton, New Jersey.
We spoke of the low whistle of trains passing in the distance: we both liked the sound, and that which it evoked. We spoke of Bob Dylan, and his description of the venom and bliss of the New Jersey night.
He spoke of the love he had for someone which could never be resolved. The love he had was so pure and unswerving that nany one of us would be privileged to have been the recipient of such a love. His small acts of giving and caring were undertaken in such a spirit of unselfishness.
He loved his father so much. He loved how his father loved him too, he spoke of it often, with a sense of awe. He knew the power and beauty of such love.
He loved music, of all kinds.
He had a quirky sense of the absurd, and happily escalated the merest bit of nonsense into full-scale lunacy, which of course was fun: I too am guilty of lapses into complete stupidity at the smallest provocation. He downloaded a picture of me from my blog, and had it made into a t-shirt. So there in New Jersey, I was walking around on someones chest.
He emailed me long letters, talking about things, and yet in the face of all, he never sounded self pitying. He seemed to have been surprised, constantly, at the way the world was. At the way he was: lonely, locked away, so full of love.
He had a skin complaint which caused himself to hide away. It was painful , and made him believe he was repugnant to look at. But that’s the beauty of the internet: you can talk to people and it doesn’t matter of you look like a snake shedding its skin, or a fruzzy headed monster, or a bleary eyed old bag. In real life, I care not a jot what people look like, but in real life sometimes I don’t really feel like the scrutiny of others. I’m sure he was the same.
There was a lot of pain, and recently, sadness and tiredness.
He passed away last Monday. He was 41 years old.
He must have finally boarded that midnight train, the one that had been calling him in the dark for so long now with its long, long faraway sound. I am trying to make sense of the way I feel, how I will miss a person that I never actually met, what it means to write this, to put this out there. Yes, I’ll miss him. I’ll miss him a lot. Bryan was my friend.
Wherever he is now, I hope he is swimming through the sky, and that it is at least forty seven different shades
of the most beautiful blue.