The rumour was confirmed by
the local paper this morning.
In awkward, stale print it said you
had walked into the sea, and had
not walked back out again.
The sensitive force I had known
for three months and four days had
been snuffed out by bitter, black water.
I had held hope that you had decided
to swim to France. I had held hope that
you had made it, and were demolishing
croissants and coffee in a little cafe in Paris.
The paper said your parents couldn’t speak,
that they were engulfed by sadness.
It was the 19th of October when you died.
It was raining that day. I remember because
I was standing under the porch, watching
worms rising above ground, and be picked
off by birds fattening up for winter.
The air smelt like water left behind
for hours in rock pools.
It was the day after I’d asked you on a date,
the day after you had shrugged your shoulders
and said, gently, ‘maybe.’
You were nervous at the time, putting out
the Christmas stock of annuals and biographies.
You stopped to scratch your dry
knuckles every few seconds.
I walked back to the cash register, smiling
behind my curtain of hair, thinking how
I would kiss those dry knuckles better.
Your coffee and lactose free milk have
been removed from the fridge
in the staff room.
Your locker has been opened with
a master key and emptied.
There were stacks of notepapers
with lists of books you wanted
to get next payday.
I’m at the seaside, at the point they said
they found your shoes. You’d left them
neatly side by side, toes pointing
in the direction of the water.
They didn’t find any clothes, but I didn’t
have to be told that. You would have
kept them on, you were that sort of girl.
They said you might have cut your wrists
before walking into the surf.
I look around my feet, as though expecting
to see red streaks in the sand.
But the tide has been in and out several times
since you died. It has washed everything clean.
It is dusk. The beach is empty. My back muscles
feel like they are being knitted together.
I look over my shoulder constantly, my anxiety
like a sharp peach stone in my gut.
The smell of salt water and driftwood
is powerful. I can taste it. I touch the ground.
It is damp, rigid, cold.
You would have been here when it was dark.
You would have smelt and tasted and felt
this beach like I am now.
I imagine you walking into the sea, I imagine
the tides rolling over you, pulling your salt heavy
hair across your face like a wet, velvet drape.
I have never lit a Chinese lantern before now.
I didn’t realise it would be so beautiful.
I let it out into the sky, and hope that wherever
you are that you see it and know I sent it.
I throw a thistle into the surf. I picked it up
from the point where the sand meets the grass.
It is a strong plant, and looks like it could
withstand the waves for weeks.