Mary stood in the ocean, the cold water lapping at her feet, the hot sun beating down on her back. She took a step forward, feeling the delicious coldness rising. She always loved the water, ever since she was a little girl. Behind her she could hear two kids playing, the family were there when she arrived. The beach was emptier than she expected for such a nice day, but that suited her fine. Mary didn’t like crowds and it meant that she didn’t have to walk to an empty spot on the beach. Her arms were getting tired, the small bundle she carried was heavier than it looked. She closed her eyes and lifted her head towards the sun, absentmindedly bouncing the bundle.
It had been hot the last few days, too hot. When she woke this morning she lay in bed for a few moments, trying to muster the energy to get up and open the doors and windows. The heat was heavy and oppressive, holding her down. As she felt the cool air across her skin she was reminded of days at the sea when she was a child. The cold water, the tang of the salt air, the steady, soothing sound of the waves crashing against the sand. She knew then what she had to do. Getting ready for the beach was an easy affair. Just gather a few things in a bag and go. The drive itself wasn’t too long, only a half an hour.
She was waist deep now, the waters coolness took on a darker edge. The heat was being sapped from her body slowly. After all she wasn’t swimming, just standing. The chill of the water made her feel awake, alive. For the first time in years she felt like she was actually living and not just a shell of a person waiting to be filled. She made a shushing sound as the bundle gave a little cry, “don’t worry, I’ve got you, you’re safe.” She looked down at the bundle, the little scrunched face. She said the words she was supposed to say and the crying stopped. She knew on some level it wasn’t right, that she was supposed to feel something, but she didn’t. There was no love or hatred, just ambivalence. Sometimes it made her feel bad, like she was a failure, but most of the time she just got on with things. It was easier to move around in a fog, to let the events of the world wash over and past her.
Mary moved deeper into the water, the blanket was getting wet now and the cries were coming steadily. She didn’t listen to them, they washed over her and around her. She wanted to keep going, move ever deeper. Someone shouted something behind her, she didn’t turn around. She lifted the bundle a little higher, making sure it was dry. If she didn’t have it with her she would be able to go deeper, out into the vast ocean where there was nothing. No one to worry about, no one else to think of. Just her and her thoughts and the coldness of the water pulling her down. A sudden wave pushed against her, soaking the blanket which gave a surprised squawk and the cries become louder, harsher. More shouting from the beach. Mary slowly turned and waded out of the water. She didn’t hurry, there was no urgency. On the sand again people were talking to her, at her. She brushed away their concern. She was in a swim suit after all. She was just enjoying the cooling water after being in the sun and had wandered a little further than she realised. She was fine, everyone was fine.
In the car on the way home all the windows were down, the air was nice, though she missed the water. It would have been so easy. She could have just let go when the wave came.
The heat hit her when she opened the door, heavier than before. She moved around the house, opening the windows and hoping for a cooling breeze, but none came. Somewhere in the house it was crying, she didn’t want to deal with it, she didn’t want to deal with anything. After awhile the noise became all encompassing. There was nothing else, no other sound just that constant wail. She pulled herself from the couch and checked on it. Doing all the things she was supposed to do. As she finished up she wondered if someday something would click and she would feel it, love flowing over her, filling up that vast emptiness inside, but she knew that it wouldn’t. Nothing was ever that simple, or that easy. Once she had done her duty she put it down again and went back to what she was doing before. Tom, her husband, would be home soon. He would take care of it then and it would be better off. Tom always knew what to do, what it wanted. Like they shared a secret language together, one that would always shut her out.