The Beauty Unobvious

27 Jul

She walked through the space inbetween.  Where the tide and the salt-air merges.  This space is where the giant butterflies dance and collide…

Their conversation evolved from seemingly nowhere.  She was too taken with serendipity to question or analyse, and happily gave as much as she took, from this otherwise reclusive encounter.

He was the harbour watchman on Fort Adams.  She pulled her navy hood above her head and let it fall flacidly over her hair, pulled back in a salty knot.  Her shorts were thinning on the backside and she could feel the coolness of the sand-scorched pebbles on her bare thighs.  She drew her knees to her chin and squinted her eyes to bring the stack of slate-perfect rocks into focus.  The evening sun dipped below the bridge, taking commuters and tourists back to Providence, and hit the top stone like a sacred-halo.

At only twenty-four years old, he was brave and nervous.  His laughter penetrated her and cut into her, leaving cracks of anxiety.

The fisherman and his grandson selected a worm from the empty whipped-butter tub and speared it on the hook of the line.  Positioning himself exactly inches behind the five year old, he stretched and reached and released the cord into the water below the dock – the little boy held a hand towards it and imagined he himself had created this moment.  Captured this fish.

The water below rippled but didn’t break.  The sun dipped completely and the shadows disappeared.  The bag of discarded apples spilled across the grass and the smell of gasoline lingered in the air.

It was one of those evenings where the skies turned to such a fiery orange palette that you had to hold your breath – afraid of losing the last oxygen in your lungs – scared of suffocating in this heated, liquid sky.  She crept across the bridge towards the lighthouse and kept her vision on the white lights, perfectly spaced across the huge structure.  Like frozen beads of rain or drops of tears.  The words to Manna came back to her, and she dove into the water…

I’m swimming in it, I’m swimming out to you…for reasons, my reasons…”

Howard Street eluded her.  Like the star that only revealed itself in the vision of her periphery.  Look straight at it, and it will disappear from view.  Set your sights off-centre and it’s there.  Some things we can never fully see.  We just have to trust they are there – happening outside of our view.

In the thick of the night it was as though you could float down the street, unnoticed and invisible.  With arms outstretched, there was no choice but to feel your way along this chosen path.  A picket-fence to one side, a granite wall to the other – a physical barrier to separate our footsteps from their buried breaths.

The sky was like liquorice treacle and the stars burst like the green shards of crushed glass on the sidewalk.  She stepped ahead, knowing that this was the place where it all began.  In her pocket, she felt the coolness of the pebble and pressed it into her palm.

Did stones keep you safe from harm?

She never asked his name – but it didn’t matter.  They passed the time as he counted his tips and she waited for her sea-salted hair to dry.  He carried a gym-bag – full of history books.  She carried a backpack – full of notebooks.  She drank tea – he coffee.  Black, no sugar.  His skin was sallow, grey and scarred with fifty years she could never claim to own.  He talked with lucid charm and intuitive wisdom – yet had the openness of a child.

She unscrewed the lid from a miniature glass bottle of maple syrup and gulped down the liquid.

She offered him a swig.  “Good stuff.  Try?”

Her transient companion declined – “The real good stuff is hard to find.  You got to catch that stuff quick.  There’s gold in it.  Sugar settles into your bones.”  He had a way with words – drama never left him.  The unwritten novel within him simmered and the flame burned lower each day.

She left the Diner and turned right and down the narrow street towards the cemetary, past the grey slatted building that she hoped was where it all made sense.  The music.  The Doghouse, the House Tornado, the place where dreams spilled into the road, got caught up in truck tyres like sugary gravel, carted cross-country – and evaporated into space.  Into that periphery.  The space we forget to notice.  The space we feel.  But don’t see.

Walking out as far as she could, until the salt-water lapped at her unravelled hems; the silt underfoot encased her toes and the spongy, mossy sea-bed felt like slippery velvet.  Yachts and mansions on the shoreline reminded her – simple pleasures remained in the blurry periphery.  For that, she would always be grateful.  Picking up a flat-sided stone, she skimmed it across the water’s surface and watched it travel and skip – once, twice, three times – before sinking, resting.  Hidden from view.

The derelict mansion on the cliffside stood at the corner.  Ocean Drive was visible now and she headed to the furthest rock.  Time had smoothed it and she let her feet side-slip down to the waves, crashing against the seaweed-slime.  A mother steadied her daughter as the little girl stood, arms spread out – as if to catch as much as she could. 

This moment.  This life.  This was enough.  She looked across to the mansion – boards at the windows.  And in the attic – a crack in the window and a white curtain emerging – a place to let the light in.

Reaching Goat Island, she pressed her headphones closer to her ears.  If she could crush her senses with sound, she would.

The music filled the space and the frozen beads of rain collided with the stars in the night-sky; and the glass in the road shimmered silver and green.  Just like the box – pouring sugar in the road.

And everyone was exactly where they needed to be.  We took what we needed and gave what we believed.  And we believed in everything.  On this island.  The stars shine the brightest, when out of view.

 

 

 

“My Newport-inspired extract was formed from my observations and experiences on Rhode Island in September 2012.  Fifteen years ago, I stumbled upon an album by a band, formed in Newport in the 1980s – Throwing Muses.  The record I first listened to was 1991’s The Real Ramona.  I since became absorbed in Tanya Donelly’s solo work and her own former band, Belly.  I am passionate about the universal magic of music, coincidence and serendipity – and how it can cross boundaries, bridge gaps and connect lives that would otherwise have seemingly gone unnoticed, or might never have collided.  I came to Newport for personal reasons – and, whilst not knowing what I would experience; the people I met, the conversations I had and the quiet moments I appreciated, helped me to reflect on my own place in the world – and to realise how, sometimes, the smallest gestures, events or memories can become more significant than we realise.  We’re all connected, I guess.”

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