Swimmer

by Christine Murray

I feel like drinking a whole pot of coffee, like becoming a big dehydrated lump, like smoking until the hairs on my tongue stand straight up, tickling the roof of my mouth.

I’ve been trying to be normal for a while now, but I’d rather revisit the Sal years — lie on his bed, drink tiger tea and listen to music. I used to collapse, stare at my hands, or my feet, or the floor. I was very dramatic.

Only now I’m in London, not Toronto, with Laz, not Sal. And even with the rain, clouds, yellow soot-covered buildings and damp bed sheets, everyone in London is all right.

“Are you alright?” they say, putting up umbrellas, running from buildings, sipping Evian, or Highland Springs, or Volvic Natural Spring Water.

“Yes, I’m alright.”

During the Sal years I was important. I would spend dizzy weekends and intermittent afternoons writing, thinking it decent to feel so ill, thinking with melancholy sadness “je suis malade.”

I sucked his tongue and spat out poems like eight line questions.

In London, the floor of my room peaks through my clothes. I see that it needs vacuuming, and cover it up again.

“If I felt differently,” I tell myself, “I would uncover things.”

Sal calls long distance to say he loves the girl who doesn’t wear dresses. The girl with the smile that bites into her cheeks. The girl he fucked behind my back once. (A few times.)

“She isn’t pretty,” I say, now that we are just friends. I see her as a fist clencher, clenching things. She squeezes Sal like oranges.

In London people stand on the edge of the street like they would stand on the edge of large precipices. Waiting, then jumping into the sea like salmon, swimming upstream.

I met Laz here. He kisses my forehead and my thoughts recline. They lift their feet. “Take it easy for a while,” they say, “You think too much.”

In London, the salmon swim down Oxford St., through Soho, up Portobello road, flipping around on the streets of Camden. On sunny days they pause, turn their fisheyes to the sky, lie in the park and stare upwards.

After sex, Laz often tells me to get up and go write something, but nothing comes.

“Ma belle petite slug,” he would say with a British inflection, if he could speak French.

It’s reckless to stare at the sky: a way of averting your eyes. You become the fixed point. The world moves about you.

Christine Murray is working on her Masters of English Literature and Creative Writing at Concordia University. She prefers writing fiction and poetry, but mostly writes for fashion magazines.

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