Seaside Gothic

Fiction | Poetry | Nonfiction

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Seaglass by Quen Took

We have to look carefully to see it, but the beach is spotted with flecks of green and white and blue. Sharp, manmade litter, battered into beauty by the sea.

I comb the sand with the toe of my boot in search of these treasures, like a gull mining for dead crabs.

Brown sea glass is my favourite, though blue is the rarest. Brown sea glass reminds me of your eyes; paler when the light catches them, warm, like amber.

The sea suits you.

I wish you were happier. I buy you a porcelain starfish and feel a proud glow when it makes you smile. 

Your grandmother is dying.

Your grandmother is dying, and we are still desperately fanning life into a family holiday, with beach walks, and ice creams, and—when it rains—reruns of The Chase. I cook pizzas in the caravan oven. I encourage you to eat and am pleased when you do.

We take the dog down the cliff and let him wander on the stones. He noses in the sand, stands still on the edge of a rock. He looks like the grandson of wolves.

You leave messages for your grandmother.

I accompany you to the edge of the sea and listen to you singing to her—‘Leave Her Johnny’ and ‘Scarborough Fair’. Your voice is thin and high, swallowed by the sound of the wind.

You have never been more beautiful to me, never braver. 

I bring you a pretty stone, with freckles that match the constellation of moles on your upper back.

When she passes, you stumble into my arms, and I hold you. It is not my pain to take away. It is not my place to hurt for you, but I hurt anyway, a twisting ache that is as keen as it is helpless.

I wish I had met her; if nothing else, but to thank her for making you who you are.

You are restless with grief.

I take you to the beach. It is dark and perhaps it is dangerous, but it is all I can do for you. We gather flowers by the light of an electric torch, and you weave them into a bright crown that she will never wear.

We drink vodka and cola, pour out a measure with a bright splash onto the sand. And we sing, our mingled voices snagging on the air.

Savoury, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

I take you back to the caravan and let you sleep. I hear you crying. I resist the urge to smother you with my need to fix the wound.

The next day, you need a walk again. I take you. Your hand fits so sweetly in mine. Never so sweetly as now.

You sit on the beach and call your mum, and I pick through shades of fawn and dove, searching for bright flashes of unnatural colour.

I come and kiss you. Your temple tastes like salt. Tears fall and we do not pretend that they are rain or sea spray.

I listen to you talk about your grandmother. I kiss you, over and over. I fill your hands with marbled sea glass. I can do no more for you than love you.

I hope it is enough.