All that is left are memories.
Like that time on the shingle beach at Aldeburgh. The ocean grey as slate, crests ruffled like white frosting. The thump of waves and rasp of small stones and, everywhere, the seashell roar like an endless breath. No horizon where the sky meets the sea, only the blur of cloud banks gathering. A tang in the air, of salt and electric tension, of the storm that will hit that afternoon.
We are at the beach, John and I, but it is cold; British summertime and I am wrapped in a woollen overcoat, shivering. I have my chin on my knees and hug them to keep warm. One hand is beside me, caressing the uneven ground. Part of this memory is in my fingertips, the sensation of touching the pebbles, of their roundness, their smoothness, of a kind of perfection that exists only in the feel of things.
John is behind me, pitching stones into the ocean. I cannot see him, but hear with each throw the rumple of his jacket, the distant plop, the scrabbling at his feet for another perfect skimmer. Everything about this irritates me. I do not remember why I am angry, only the crackle of it in my belly and spine.
Later, the storm will break. We will run, drenched, through the dark streets to the bed and breakfast, up to John’s room and the smell of pot pourri and the fish and chips we sneak inside. We will eat on the bed, right out of the newspaper, drink Adnams from the can. Our daughter is conceived to the sound of water hammering against the windowpane, sluicing down the narrow laneway.
This is the first memory I give to Dymphna. The first Dymphna, that is. Dymphna 1.0…
Read more in Issue 131 of Aurealis Magazine. Illustration by Nick Stath.