Normandy. A sailor without a dock. A boat for a home. A drifter stranded with intent. Serenaded by a traveler’s dream.
The sun is his compass. The clouds, his blanket. The ocean, his lover.
He retired his map months ago, used it to stuff his pillow. That was the best use for it. He left his anchor on the shore.
He’s lost, but he thinks that’s how he’s always wanted to be.
Someone remembers him. A memory on paper. A phone number jotted down. A photograph lost. A class portrait. A golden ring. A woman.
The earth knows her. She sows the soil and tills herself into her garden. Picks clovers at the head and mixes seeds in her palms. Her backyard is her second love.
She writes him a letter weekly. Tosses it, lends it to the wind. The crows catch it and tear. They shower her with paper. She hopes the pieces will find him.
I’ll be back, love, he’d said. When the tide comes in, I’ll be with it.
A fish for dinner. Scales saved for a coat sewn with seaweed. Ribs collected for hooks. Eyes pocketed. It’s good luck to have a second set of fresh eyes.
He retires his shoes. Leather, good for the sea. He shoves his feet in the water and salt licks his toes. The sun says they’re east. The east is good for reeds, for kelp and water lilies. He has been wanting to give the ocean a bouquet.
Tomorrow he will fish. He will bathe in his ocean. And he thinks that’s good enough for him.
She watches as her most recent letter is stolen. Used for the bottom of a nest made of paper. The crows sit their children on her words and wet their beaks with her ink. She thought maybe some of the pieces had made it to the water.
Why can’t I come with you?
You don’t know the sea.
She puts down her pen. Plants her feet in the earth and cuts the trees in her backyard. The crows scatter as she strips the leaves from their branches, tears the golden locks from her scalp, uses her teeth as a needle and strings her hair through her tongue.
Construction is best done with the body.
She once watched him make a boat. Her mind took notes on how to do it.
She bends the leaves with her mouth and knits them together with her hair. A bow starts to form in her backyard.
His mother suggests grass for the sail. Her son gathers bark for the mast.
He sings to the ocean at night. Je t’aime. Je t’aime.
She sings back. Es-tu perdu mon chéri?
He dips his hand in the loose folds of her skin. Non. Non. Je suis chez moi. Je suis chez moi.
He remembers the land. Green. Red. Grey. A streak of soft gold. A ring used as a lure. A young boy with his face. His laugh. Something tells him his skin knew grass. His feet rubbed against dirt.
That the world could sit still.
He looks at his boat. How could he sleep without being rocked?
He shuts his eyes and thinks maybe it was a dream. How could there be more than blue?
Je t’aime. Je t’aime.
She brings her boat to the beach. The sand his feet last touched. When he still smelled like her. Like pine and honey.
I love you.
Wait for me. Watch for my boat.
She sees an anchor rusting on the shore.
Her boat shudders in the wind. She abandons her shoes. Leather, bad for earth and grass.
With a lock of her hair, she pulls her boat of leaves into the tide.
He makes love to the ocean before bed. Warming her with dry kisses on her cheek, putting his hand on her body, feeling the salt of her skin.
He does this nightly. He lowers his body into her curls, lets the heat of his abdomen escape in her water. He doesn’t remember if he’s ever had such good love-making before.
Maybe he will marry her.
Before he exits her body and falls asleep below deck, the ocean caresses his hair and stains it with her brine.
Tu es à moi.
He smiles. Tu me rends heureux.
He took her on his boat once. Pointed at the sun. Send your letters here, he said. I will read each one.
She spent all her money on paper.
The sun drops out of the sky as waves cut the ocean. The salt chews her leaves. Green leaks from her boat. It cries as the leaves begin to shrivel. The grass from the sail falls from the mast and grows on her bald head.
I will read each one.
She writes. Rips a green leaf from her bow and throws the letter in the air towards where the sun had set. A crow catches it just as her hair comes undone. Pieces of writing fall from its beak. Her words sink. Leaves speckle the ocean. The water is cold on her toes.
She doesn’t know how to swim.