“Mike!” Alona shouted, her voice cutting through the mewing seagulls overhead. “You’ve got to pull yourself together. Come on, let’s take a stroll, I need fresh air.”
Separated by an intentional gap, they headed across the car park towards the quayside. There, under watchful eyes of mothers, a huddle of children leant over the edge dangling lines baited with bread to lure crabs. Equipped with small red nets attached to bamboo canes, fathers stood nearby, ready to catch the crabs when clear of the water’s surface. Under the terms of an unspoken truce, Mike and Alona peered into a rainbow-coloured plastic bucket containing water. Various sized dancing crustaceans waited impatiently for their return to the sea, ready for the next hunter-gatherers.
They continued walking in silence. The Nelson stood on the far edge of the quay, backlit by an intense pink sunset. Eager customers lined the picnic tables outside. The aroma of deep-fried fish drifted through the air.
“I know it’s all my fault.” Mike said.
“Stop biting your fingernails, Mike. Please … not in public.” Sharp glances traded between the couple. “Retain some … dignity, won’t you? Anyway, explain to me, what’s all your fault?”
“From when we first met – six months ago – I placed you upon a pedestal.”
“No! Okay yes, sort of.” Mike stopped, turned and gripped the safety rail, casting his gaze out across the harbour to where yachts and fishing boats bobbed on the water. “You’re beautiful, kind-hearted by your actions, more intelligent than me, you brim with self-confidence. I saw you as perfect. You fulfilled my ideal vision of a woman and life-long companion. Honestly Alona, I’d convinced myself I saw an aura glowing around you, each time we made love.”
“Then why,” Alona drew alongside Mike and placed a hand over his, “does it feel like this relationship’s crashed emotionally? Don’t you want this any more?” She studied his expression, searching for clues,
“I feel awful saying this and you’re not going to like it.” Mike bit on his lower lip. “Recently, I’ve come around to seeing your faults.” Mike looked at Alona, noticing her eyes widening and her posture stiffen, as she sighed deeply. “How you sometimes make insensitive comments, forget to clear up after yourself and possess few money-management skills. As the mistakes racked up, one after the other, you went from representing my whole world to a meteor, vaporising upon entry into my planet’s atmosphere.”
“You mean, I fell from the pedestal you’d placed me on, falling from a very great height.”
Mike felt his hand grasped firmly, his arm tugged. “Right, Mike Montagne, you come with me.” For her height and size, her physical strength surprised him. He felt small and insignificant, resistance seemed pointless.
“Where’re we going?” He asked.
“You’ll see.” Alona snapped back, without turning her head.
Without warning, she changed direction sharply and descended the concrete steps built into the harbour wall, onto the jetty below.
“Get down on all fours!” She demanded.
“What … why? What’s going to happen to me?” He said, lowering himself shakily onto both knees. Alona’s hand pressed onto the back of his head, pushing him down to the seawater.
“Don’t struggle.” Her words, just before his face made contact.
Quickly, he drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes. The shock of the cold water numbed his lips, cheeks and forehead. Against the vermillion background of his eyelids, small, bright blue ovals drifted in random directions. The harshness of sound dampened, as water filled his ears. After a stream of bubbles escaped his mouth, Alona pulled him out.
“Breathe.” She told him, before pushing him downwards one more time.
“How are you feeling now?” Alona asked.
“I think, I feel alright.” Mike replied, sitting down. The harbour wall served as a backrest; drawing up his legs, he rested his chin onto his knees.
“Yes, actually I feel quite serene.” He said, managing a smile.
“You’ve just experienced a remnant of the mammalian diving reflex.”
“I have?” Mike ran his fingers through his wet hair and gave his head a shake.
“It’s a response we share with most mammals. When cold water hits the face, physiological changes occur.”
Alona adjusted her summer shift dress and sat down in front of Mike. “Well, the important aspect for humans relates to blood flow, concentrating in vital organs: the heart, brain, spleen and so on. Increased levels of oxygen accompany the blood flow, producing a calming effect.”
“So,” Mike held Alona’s hand, “whenever I feel anxious, find a wash basin and dip my head in cold water.”
“Yes, even the simple act of splashing cold water onto your face helps. But immersion, like just now, works best.” Alona shuffled along on her bottom, closer to Mike. “In this calm state, I want you to understand; I love you. Okay? Also, forgive me my little foibles, allow me some leeway. There exists dark and light aspects to my character; I love myself, perfection holds no interest to me. You and I will move forward if we are happy, trusting, secure and wishing to grow together. You need to accept me as I am. Okay?”
©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved
Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by picture)
With special thanks to the Covid-19 Lockdown