The salt reassures my skin, reminds me of her. After its bruising my
skin with the way it tingles, I will fall, exhausted, into her smooth
brown arms. Soft. I cannot wait to wrap my hands in her hair. Black,
feathery, her defining feature. Always when I think of Hero I think
first of her hair, how it surrounds her like an aura, fans out on white
sheets, her halo. I am thirsty, so first we will drink together, but
not until I have felt her hair in my wet fingers.
My arms are aching already, and I have only swum for ten minutes or
so, not even half the way to the island, her island. I think I can hear
lightning, but the water covers my head and fills my ears, and it is
always so strange to be in this water. Our only link. The smell of me
always makes Hero giggle afterwards - she says it is like making love
with the ocean.
I hum to myself, three notes over and over - Le - an - der. He is
coming; it is the right time for him to be here soon. The garments I
wear for Aphrodite's shrine are on the floor, disrespected and walked
upon in my rush to be ready for my Leander. I cluck to myself, chiding
under my breath as I fold them over the chair by the window. The sky is
already so dark, bluer than blue but not quite black. I nibble my lip -
I am anxious tonight. But I have lit the torch, even though Leander
says he never looks at it. He knows the journey, he says. But the sea
is a volatile creature, although I never tell him that. He is a
wonderful swimmer, and I'd never want to hurt his feelings. He is so
sensitive, always dreaming and smiling. Once, I asked him what he was
dreaming about. He winked at me, and moved next to me, kissed my hair.
He loves my hair, more than me, I tease him.
I am aware of my muscles, straining, pulsing. The sea is hostile
tonight. It seems to want some kind of expulsion - I can feel the
currents trying to reject me, to push me out. I will not panic. This
journey I know, so well that it is almost like a part of my body. I
pick up an apple with my hand; I swim through the sea to Aphrodite's
island to see Hero.
Tonight we will have chicken. Chicken with herbs, and maybe we will
dance. Every night is a first for us. My Leander and I. I cannot
imagine ever thinking of, ever touching, another man. No one would have
muscles as lean as him. Eyes as bright, hair as curly. My love, he
makes me smile.
Now the waves are slamming me around, picking me up and putting me
down, and I don't even know that I am swimming toward the island. I
could be swimming to nothing - what if I am swimming to nothing? I
suddenly remember the torch, Hero's beacon that she lights on the tower
for me, every night. She swears she has never forgotten. I desperately
thrust my head above the water several times, searching for the blaze
that marks our love. Nothing. What if I am swimming into nothing?
I hurt. It is too much to move, but something twitching, somewhere
inside, won't let me stop. I want to stop. Where is Hero's hair? Now I
am not so sure. I picture our wedding, one day. The white and the
flowers, drumming and smiling and secretly kissing. I see the torch,
right before my face, and the muscles in my face contract as I smile,
mouth closed in the water. I blink, my eyeballs stinging, and it is
just the water again. When did I last breathe? I thrash my head around
until I hit some air, and gasp it all in. Under again, I realise that
the lightning was real, grinning jagged over my head. Where? I want
nothing, ever, except to feel my lover's hair. She is in front of me,
ghastly and watery, her hair reaching out to envelop me, like seaweed
tendrils. I try to grab it in my hand, but it is all water. I make our
sign to her, stroking my eyebrows, so tired. I love you.
I am leaning out of the window, searching for those wet curls in the
dark water. The wind stings my face, and my eyes are streaming. I
cannot see. I cannot see him. And then a shining catches my eye, like
the moon in the water. On the beach, in the shallow waves, with water
stroking him tenderly. He is not moving.
I cannot think, I cannot breathe. I hang, somewhere near the floor,
holding onto the window. My body has doubled. L for love, L for
Leander. My arms launch myself, and I am gone.
I flap my beautifully greasy wings, making small idle circles in the
air, a stark black sky flea. Flesh reflects in my piercing black eye. I
am all seeing, and what I see now makes me dive, accelerating. Flesh on
flesh. Hair on hair, hair on flesh. Beautifully spread out, stuck. A
cross, limbs entangled and bent out of shape. There will be feasting