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Thom on rock

Photo by Esme Knight

When we go back to the sea

Poet, writer and artist, Thom Kofoed has spent all of his twenty six years living in Hastings. Here he remembers the ocean. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am sixteen and standing waist deep in the water. It is May but it is cold and the sky and the sea are the same colour and the line between them both is gone. She and him are there too; we are standing in a triangle, far enough away from each other that we have to shout to be heard. The wind is howling and she ties her hair up behind her head and tucks the hanging strands behind her ears. We can see the White Rock from where we’re standing, a row of shops selling spades and tee shirts and jobs.

“Ready” he shouts and she shouts “Ready” and I shout “Ready” and we all start to pee. We have finished our exams and we are free and we are tip toeing on the line between childhood and adulthood and he said we should go to the ocean and then someone said we should pee inside of it and we’re still young and the idea seems sort of a perfect way to start our new lives. We’ll be friends forever, I remember thinking, this means we’ll be friends forever.

I am twenty now. Or twenty-one.  I have been sat in George Street for two hours nursing one hot chocolate that has gone cold and sort of separated. My legs hurt, the bottom of my back is beating, beating, I can feel each of my toes as if each is an arm. They are twitching. My heart is heavy inside my chest. I can feel it when I breathe. My neck is stiff as board, my eyes burn when I blink, when I close them. They are tired of crying. I am tired of crying. I am tired.

I write “I release my pain” onto a piece of paper torn out of an old book in my rucksack and I fold it five times between my fingers, there beside the water and the fishing boats covered in rope. The water laps over my feet and my shoes are wet and then my socks are wet and my fist is gripped around the piece of paper folded into the shape of a stone and I close my eyes and take a deep breath and then another and I can feel my heart and I whisper “I release my pain, I release my pain” and the sound gets caught up in the wind and takes off like a bird. I can hear its wings now, clapping like oars in the sky and I open my eyes because I think I might see it but it is only me, with my fist still clenched. I raise it up and throw the paper stone into the sea. It’s big enough to take on all of my hurting, I think.  It is stronger than I am.

We have spent the night in the Old Town but with you it all seems new. I am late at first and you are waiting and you look as if you would wait for me forever so I slow down my walking because I want you to, but you see me and I stop because I am nervous. I am nervous under the weight of what this could be. I am nervous because I’ve forgotten how I would usually greet a person I am meeting for the first time. For a second I think I might call you champ but I don’t.

We laugh that night and I drink lemonade because my car is by the Crazy Golf and you say you want to go for a drive and I grab my keys and you try to change the music but I don’t like that so I turn it off. And you turn it on. And I laugh but it isn’t funny. We stop near the pier and you run across the road and I’m behind you, walking cautiously. It is dark and the sea is a still, black velvet blanket and the stones are just sounds under our feet. We walk beneath the scorched frame because you want to show me the silhouette made by the moon and it’s beautiful and I’m not scared though I hear people in the blackness. You put your arms around my shoulders and they are warm and porous and sip up my cold. You turn me and kiss me on my mouth and it feels new but entirely familiar and your hands are on my back now, holding me. Holding me up. Tonight is the beginning and the end but I don’t know that, not yet.

Rock-A-Nore is syrupy with sunshine and she is carrying my bags because the orange-red hair is blowing in my face and, for that day at least, I am somebody and I can’t carry my own bags. The sun is bright and everything is yellow, even the sea, and the sequins on the mermaid costume I am wearing glitter like a hundred tiny camera flashes. The yellow water crashes against rocks and I let myself think that the ocean is applauding me, and for a while I really believe it. I sing out to King Triton and to the sky and she takes photos and I sing and I sing. Later the ocean, like a spilled drink, pours in all of a sudden and the rocks are bobbing like ice cubes in a glass. We grab at our things but the mermaid costume is tight around my legs and the water comes in. I imagine dying here. I imagine my father’s face when he discovers his youngest son dead on a beach dressed as a Disney Princess. I imagine the front page of the newspaper, my spot on the local news. I hear the conversations in office staffrooms, in playgrounds, in churches. I imagine becoming an anecdote, an invisible victim, a “do you remember when…?”, I imagine dying before I’ve become anyone at all, before the town knows my name. I imagine being forgotten. The sun is shining amber and for a moment I am amber too and I disappear into the cliff. Into the sand. Into the water.

 

 

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Posted 09:36 Saturday, Sep 14, 2013 In: Hastings People

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