Female-male relations (Portrayals)
Humans and nature (Portrayals)
|Publication:||Name: Hecate Publisher: Hecate Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Hecate Press ISSN: 0311-4198|
|Issue:||Date: May-Nov, 2009 Source Volume: 35 Source Issue: 1-2|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Swimming (Gandolfo, Enza) (Novel)|
Kate stops at the water's edge to listen to the squalls of the
seagulls, the splash and ripple of foamy breakers. The tips of her toes
almost touch the wide band of shredded seaweed, the dividing line
between the stretch of gold sand and the water. Behind her the sun
rises, appearing between the roofs of the houses that line the esplanade
and brushing the sky red-pink and purple. On the bay the reflected light
dances on the water. Kate takes a deep breath letting the cool air fill
She hears a splash as a young girl dives from the buoy--red hair and yellow bathers disappearing under the surface, her friend already swimming towards the shore. Further along the beach a Brethren family gathers: the mother, and two teenage daughters in ankle-length denim skirts and long-sleeved cotton shirts, their straight blonde hair tied back with handkerchief scarves while the father and son wear loose tee-shirts and bathers. The family spread towels on the sand and the three children head into the water; the girls, fully dressed, splash each other while their younger brother dives under and swims in circles around them.
Kate adjusts her goggles and walks into the water. As the water reaches her thighs she flinches; as it touches her belly, she jumps back shivering.
'Cold?' Tom calls out.
'Not too bad,' she yells back.
'Liar,' he laughs.
He shakes his head, 'No way. I'm happy here. You go for it, my waterbaby.' He blows her a kiss.
The water, all hands, caresses her body. She longs to swim naked, to release her breasts from her bathers, to feel the water, over her belly between her legs but already there are too many people on the beach. Instead she swims towards the horizon and with every stroke the ocean floor sinks further and further.
Not long after they first met she asked him, 'How come you're not a confident swimmer?'
'I nearly drowned once; my brothers threw me in the deep end of the pool. All I can remember is gasping for breath, and nothing to hold on to.'
'How long did they leave you?'
'They swear it was only seconds, but to me it felt like a long time.'
'And that was it?'
'Just can't relax in deep water, I hate it. But I love the beach, just not swimming.'
Kate swims out into the deep water, beyond reach. Her thoughts trailing behind her--meditative, weightless, gliding, flying--yes-flying--she ceases to exist. Arms over, legs kicking, head left and then fight-all body and rhythm. She has always loved the ocean and the bay, before memory, before words, from the first time, when as a baby, her parents took her to the beach. The stories of her delight, of her speedy crawl, again and again to the water's edge, are the stuff of family legend, a story her parents like to recite over and over again. A photograph of that day hangs on her parent's kitchen wall alongside photographs of her graduation and wedding. Baby Kate sitting in the shallows between her mother's legs, her hands reaching out to the sea, behind them a summer crowd of children and adults in bright bathers and straw hats.
The happiest times of Kate's childhood are tinged with the taste of salt water and the heat of the summer sun. Hers was a summer family. In winter, football took over her father's life, in the early years the playing and training, and later the resentment and frustration of not playing. All week during the season, football dominated, her father listened to the radio, and later when they got a television set he often had both on at the same time--the pre-game commentaries, the sports reports, and of course, the game itself. When he played Kate and her mother went to the game, once he stopped playing, they stopped going. But he went every week, to every Bulldogs' match. After the game he watched the replays of other matches while he, with a couple of mates or alone, dissected the games. The cheers and groans of the crowd, the umpire's whistle, the thud of a boot on a leather ball, emanated from all sections of the house.
In the winter, as Kate's father became obsessed with football, Kate's mother bought reams of fabric and packets of paper patterns, and set up her sewing machine on the kitchen table so that they had to have dinner on their laps in the lounge room. And they argued. They argued about pins on the floor, about the volume of the radio, about the Singer sewing machine drowning out the voice of the football commentator giving a summary of the day's play. They argued about the money they didn't have to pay the bills and the mortgage. Kate's father blamed her mother for wasting money on dress material. Her mother yelled at her father for spending money on entertaining his drunken mates, and for refusing to work Saturdays when the boss paid time and a half.
In winter her parents were antagonistic, ill-tempered and distracted. But every spring after the grand final in September, the atmosphere changed. Kate's mother washed all the football gear and put it back in the hallway cupboard and her father slept in on Saturday mornings. Kate's mother finished her sewing, packed the sewing machine away, and swept up the cottons and pins. When she modelled her new dresses for her husband, he wolf-whistled and told her she was both sexy and clever. By the summer they were ready to relax, to lie in the sun and work on their tans, to head for the beach.
When Kate swam her childhood came into view; tiny morsels, brighter than starfish, momentary flashes, a glimpse or two, often difficult to catch: the high screech laughter of a little girl splashing in the bay with her father, playing dolphins in the water, circling each other, diving under, grabbing feet or ankles; her mother's long tanned legs, racing her into the sea; the taste of a raspberry icy-pole eaten under the beach umbrella on a hot day; the sand castles, and the cold of wet sand when she dug huge holes to bury her father's feet; and the taste of mussels collected with Nonno from the rocks at Williamstown, cooked on the stove in Nonna's kitchen just until the shells opened, then eaten with a squeeze of lemon.
Kate swims from one end of the small bay to the other reaching the rocks long before she realises; stops, turns and swims back. She avoids looking up at the shore. She avoids looking at Tom, wishing her back. Or waving her in, as he does when she stays too long and he wants breakfast, coffee, her attention and her company.
From the water the shore is uninviting-barren, flat and dry. From the water Kate has to force herself back to the shore. This particular morning she floats for a while after a long swim while Tom sits on a towel on the beach, head bent over a sketchbook.
She should tell him. Talk to him. She should. She must.
This is an extract from a novel to be published by Vanark Press in 2009.
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|