October 9, 2009

abandoned by the tide

‘A kind of pleasure accompanies most of our appetites: we are enjoying either the memory of a past experience, or the expectation of a future one.’

All that was left of that September day was a photo.

Two people lying on a beach. Bright blue sky. Sand in his hair, the breeze in hers. Tangled arms. Her fingernails painted. His eyes half closed. Red wine teeth. Skin on skin.

There were some things she could remember quite well, the wet grit crunching under her hand. The warmth through the wind. How they had laughed in smug satisfaction with themselves. She could clearly invoke the phrases spoken, the exact angles of their contortions. The elaborate picnic and his pile of newspapers. A t-shirt for a pillow.

Suddenly there was a rush of white bubbling coldness. He was drenched. She jumped up to save the camera… or the phone? He lay there as the wave receded.

That was the problem, she said to herself, it’s easy to describe WHAT happened on the beach, but it’s impossible to remember HOW it felt. She couldn’t quite summon up the taste of that food. She couldn’t recall what it felt like to be next to him.

‘Many important realities are not easily reduced to what can be seen: love, meaning, joy, grief, justice, to name but a few. [An empiricist] must define them in terms of their observable evidence. But in so doing, he finds that the very reality he describes slips through his fingers.’

Even as it’s happening, the experience of someone’s physical presence is quite hard to articulate. In September she had occasionally noted that being around him added a twist to the mundane, an edge to routine, a different view on the same landscape.

Of course she had read theories about two souls merging into a new entity, and ideas about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts (bla bla bla).

But she'd have liked to be able to remember the feeling of being with him.

Memory lane must be a weird and wonderful world where details move and change, she thought. Obviously perfect recall would wash in a tsunami of sensations and emotions. Long-term memory is probably carefully screened; the unpleasant and the unnecessary dumped to save valuable gigabytes for more practical information.

Rather unfair really, that you had no control over your own memory-making process. She might have traded her knowledge of how-to-fry-an-egg for recollection of a scratchy beard. Or his face... (sigh)... she could never quite conjure up those familiar-yet-elusive features. In fact, the desktop image of that beach never ceased to surprise.

She tried to evoke the weight of an arm round her shoulder, the adrenalin of deep debates (sometimes he had pre-empted her points). The solid solidarity of private jokes. A stirring sense of potential. Walking alongside, pervading calm.

Smiling, she put the kettle on and made a mental note to ask about the camera, next time he phoned. Or maybe she'd call tonight.

The gaping spaces in togetherness were unbearable, deliciously unbearable. They’d be together soon. They’d share a tea bag and the taste would be perfect (peppermint). She relished the prospect, the possibilities; memories infusing desire.

'One must accept [relationships] for what they are here and now, within their limits - islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.’

Larry Crabb
Anne Morrow Lindbergh


  1. This is beautiful. Again, thank you for opening your soul so vulnerably to others so that we might be able to identify, empathize, and relate.

  2. Very well written! I remember you saying that you don’t actually write from personal experience, but you do a great job of capturing thoughts... or are they feelings... in word.

  3. hey, i'm a girl at an age of 17 (turning 18 on the 23rd :D), from Uganda but living in Norway. i just wanted to say that i admire the way you write down your feeling and thought on your blog. you inspire me and i've even started to do the same. i was just wondering where you get the pictures/paintings you use on your blog? i love them! it would be nice nice if i could get the website

    Thank You,
    Joan Shanita Wanyenze.

  4. When one speaks, the words fly and when they meet solid space they return protesting as an imperfect resonance we call an echo. But hearing this again has not taken away its edge, its value. Kudos ABCidia Philosopher (i m labelling aint I?)

    I hope I sounded as half as intelligent as I hoped I d sound. Just wanted to say I love ur writing and MFs!


malawian writers online

Share on Facebook