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Rebecca Jessen

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February 2015

FIFTEEN (Remain Nameless)

My sister is dying. It’s an ugly sentence that is less painful to write down than to utter aloud. There are only two places in the world, two moments in every day that I allow myself to be reminded of this fact. When she is sleeping in the next room, and every afternoon as I finish work at the docks and I am on the pier, staring out to sea with the impenetrable stare of someone who has lost almost everything.

Of course, everything is not lost, at least, not just yet. She is still here with me, for how long, no one can be sure. Consumption is a cursed illness. There is no cure, no vaccine. Only time, and time can be a cruel ugly thing when you know there will never be enough of it. There is nothing that will stop her from being taken from me. It’s only a matter of when.

People say you’re either born into this town, or you end up here after running from someplace even worse. No one ends up here by choice. Which is true of Jane and I? Well it would be untrue to say that we were born here. But it is true that I always knew I would end up here. The sea is in my skin, deep in my bones. The water is there, always rushing through my body. The ocean, roaring in my ears, and sometimes when it is quiet there’s a faint, distant shushing calling me back.

Father was taken in the war. They say he died a hero but perhaps that’s the story they tell all orphaned daughters. As if dying a hero softens the blow, makes the life taken more profound. Father could have died a coward, or just an ordinary man caught up in something much bigger than him. We will never know which it was and I feel sure that it makes such little difference to us now.

FOURTEEN (Never Let Me Go)

Is it selfish to be this young, with this much life to live and to sit on this dock every evening as the sun disappears, looking out to sea and to be so completely tempted by the endlessness of it? To yearn for the absolution of nothingness. The water, high above my ears, roaring through my body. They say in those moments, your body chooses to fight, chooses life over anything else. Even if life means pain, uncertainty, even if life has gripped you by the shoulders and held on too tight and you lay slack in its wake.

Eleanor came to me, delivered by the arms of the ocean on a white-hot February afternoon. Perhaps it is no coincidence that she should come to me this way, a distant speck framed by the sky, moving ever forward, into my life.

Suppose it was a look, as she came down the walkway off the ship. Tall and dark, elegant. A lady. I can’t say that she did look at me then, and if she had, was it just a look one gives when passing by? When one is so immersed inside themselves that faces, voices all come and go with a blur. Am I just a fool to think there was something charged between us, that her manner, which minutes earlier had been without life, had suddenly become buoyant? Whatever the case, in those first moments, she had come and gone so swiftly I’d have just as quickly convinced myself she had never come at all.

Eleanor’s arrival would not stop the rush, the roaring gasp for air that would take hold of me in the darkest hours of night, the hours in which the light seemed no closer or further away. For I did not even know her then. But I knew that I needed to know her, that I would know her.

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