Swimmers

     

Dear Vance,

      I’m not entirely sure why I keep writing to you like this. I told Clara about these letters: she says hello. Isn’t that a special kind of fucked-up, your daughter asking me to tell you hello.

I wanted to tell you I saw a calico cat today. It reminded me of the cat you had when we met; the little fluff-ball with the white socks that never left your lap. Until you gave it up. All innocent creatures are drawn to you, but eventually you leave them, don’t you?

I should have seen it coming.

 — T.

     

Dear Vance,

      I woke up this morning and for a moment I smelled your breath. Your god damn disgusting breath. You could have left me a ring, a love note, an exotic bouquet. I could have slapped you for breathing all over me, but you weren’t there. It was the first time in over a year that I thought about coming to find you, and I hated you for it.

— T.

     

Dear Vance,

      I went to the beach today. I watched the waves pick up shells and drag them into the sea. Remember when you took me to that windswept little fishing village where you grew up? I can never recall the name. There were no trains there, no highways, no traffic lights bleeding the night. You know, I realised the other day that I’ll never truly escape the city. I still hustle everywhere like I’m on a deadline, even though you made sure I won’t have to work again, and whenever I open the cottage door I look up and expect to see skyscrapers.

It’s your calm I miss the most, the way you carried your storybook childhood in your pocket and would take it out and unfold it and spread it like a blanket for us to sit on. Downtown Sydney was never so tranquil as when I walked those streets with you.

Why did you go, Vance? Why did you have to ruin everything you selfish coward?

— T.

     

Dear Vance,   

      Clara is in hospital; did you know that? She was stockpiling her medication. Dumb luck that her housemate caught her: she only got a fistful down her throat, and the doctors pumped her dry. You didn’t have to warn me if you didn’t want to, but you should have tried to talk to her or written her a letter. She deserves to know that none of this was her fault. You think you stopped being her father just because you’re not around? You think I stopped being your wife?

— T.

     

Dear Vance,

      There are days I wake up and, by the time I get out of bed, I hate everyone. Especially you.

— T.

     

Dear Vance,

      Clara is ok, by the way. She’s back at university. She volunteers with Lifeline two nights a week. I should have told you in my last letter, but I was so angry with you; I guess I wanted you to hurt for once. 

You remember I told you I used to sail in the Whitsundays? The people I met there remind me of you. Old sailors with faded tattoos and no wedding rings, who drifted like spectres between the bars and told each other how they had come north for the quiet life. They were escape-artists, all of them, fleeing women or commitment or debt. Fleeing pain of one form or another. You were just like them. You weren’t selfish, just afraid. Oh, Vance, you should have talked to me. I would have helped you. I would have carried you through anything.

— T.

     

Dearest Vance,

      For years now I’ve been furious that you never gave me a sign, but I’m finally beginning to understand what you were trying to tell me all that time. You said once that love (our love, I assume) was an ocean. I thought you were being sweet and poetic. But over the years I noticed how you described everything this way. Your job. Global warming. Your endless battles with Clara. Politics. All the nights you couldn’t sleep. Your mind like a sea, heaving and foaming, keeping you awake.

I think you were trying to tell me that we’re all just swimmers in our own infinite oceans, fighting the relentless tides that threaten to carry us away. You tried so hard to keep your head above water; I don’t blame you for finally letting go. Maybe after all that time you truly deserved to sink into the dark and quiet. You can rest now, my dear.

If life is an ocean, losing you was a tidal wave. There were days I wished you had cut my wrists too. But not anymore. I’m going to keep swimming, Vance. I’m going to crawl onto the shore you thought was unreachable. When I get there, I’ll write your name in the sand.

— T.

     

Dear Vance,

      I wanted to tell you first: I’m seeing someone. He is kind to me. He asks me about you as if you are my closest friend. Isn’t it funny how true that’s become?

Clara is studying for honours this year. She smiles so much now. She reminds me of you.

We’re all still here swimming, my love.

 — T.

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