defined

The quieter times-

 

when dew runs the length

of a spider’s web

as eight legs work to wrap a fly for safekeeping,

 

when an old dog still raises his head for

his owner and they press gentler than they used to,

 

when two faces are open to each other

and their eyes cross the divide unclouded

 

when a child locks in the last piece

of a jigsaw and their smile

purifies the surrounding air,

 

when looking at the expanse

of the sky doesn’t offer fear

but comfort,

 

when the soul seeks solace

and finds it

in music,

 

when under the ocean

you feel it crashing

yet hear nothing,

 

when thoughts

are just thoughts

and can be brushed away

by the touch of a kind hand,

 

when on the grass

and it puts maps on your skin

an ant climbs and traces the roads

and you let it pass,

 

when you see virtue in someone

who doesn’t see it in themselves

but trusts you

when you softly convince them,

 

when you understand you may be different

and you can’t please everyone

but aren’t afraid to write it down,

 

when it doesn’t matter what time it is

when it doesn’t matter what you look like

when it doesn’t matter what you wear

when it doesn’t matter what you do

when it doesn’t matter where you go

when it doesn’t matter what you think

or say

 

-are the ones I wish for.

Coastal (Part 3)

He was finding it hard to make an excuse now. They obviously didn’t care if he saw them; and it wouldn’t hurt if the other thing had to wait.

If they were comfortable than why shouldn’t he be? But for him, the intimacy of looking upon someone’s body should be kept private and exclusive. He hesitated, looking out through dim moonlight trying to find the horizon. He shrugged and joined them.

They were indeed naked. And they were beautiful. Why were they doing this to him? He felt like a predator if he looked at them and a prude if he stared away. He must have looked like he was tripping; his eyes were playing tennis in his skull. Had it become such a precondition that he couldn’t look at them without his gaze turning objective?

Dreadlocks smirked a little.

‘We were about to go for a swim, want to join us?’

‘Okay’. But he made no move.

‘Are you going to take your clothes off?’

He was taken aback. ‘No.’

‘Why not? You’ve seen us, it’s hardly fair.’

‘It’s entirely fair, you made your choice. You invited me down here. I don’t feel comfortable revealing myself to people I don’t know.’

‘It’s just a body, it has nothing to do with who you are’, said the one he vaguely knew.

‘Except it’s my body and it’s completely a part of who I am. It affects me in so many ways. I have no relationship with you, so this sort of closeness and familiarity makes me uncomfortable.’

‘If you say so, but if you ask me, there is nothing individual about a body, everyone knows what’s there.

‘I’m not so at ease with sharing everything.’

‘I suppose we have a fundamental difference then.’

‘I guess we do.’

Dreadlocks slid into the water. ‘Swim?’

He took his shirt off as Blue also submerged. She came up, hair slick, her face emanating natural glow.

‘Halfway there,’ she grinned.

He laughed but shook his head. He jumped in and felt a lot better now he could only see their faces. What they didn’t understand was he’d already forgotten what they looked like under the water, despite his initial evaluation. Immediately they became ten times more attractive again.

‘So you don’t mind showing your nipples but it’s weird for us?’ Dreadlocks asked.

He just twitched his mouth and conceded the point.

‘Do you do this often’, he asked.

‘When the mood takes us,’ answered Blue.

He nodded. ‘I like that, do what’s fun, do what you feel like doing. Too many people forget that.’

‘Most people would say it’s part of growing up.’

‘Yeah, but what does that mean?’

‘Who knows?’ said Dreadlocks as she duck-dived, her legs driving him to distraction as they disappeared. Blue floated away on her back.

‘So you do this all the time then?’ She asked.

‘I don’t generally get naked and swim in the middle of the night, no. But I ride the track a lot. It’s like I’m the only one awake.’

‘Ahh so we ruined it for you.’

‘There’s pros and cons for everything.’

Dreadlocks was doing slow languid laps. ‘Is this illegal?’

‘You could always claim sexual harassment if they arrested you like that.’

‘But, for real?’

‘Well it’s a public pool, and you’re nude so yeah, you’re probably breaking the law.’

‘Ooh that makes it more exciting,’ grinned Blue.

He turned to look back up the hill, checking on his bike despite rationality telling him it was ridiculous to think someone would come along and steal it. He just made it out, a slight sheen on the handle bar aiding him. Standing next to it was the Labrador, seemingly monolithic as it gazed down.

‘Jesus,’ he whispered, unnerved.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘You see that dog up there, it never leaves me alone.’

‘What dog?’ asked Blue.

‘Right there by my bike.’

Dreadlocks cast a worried glance at her friend. ‘Dude, there isn’t a dog there.’

‘What do you mean it’s right th-’ but he looked again and there was nothing. ‘Oh it’s gone; you must have just missed it in the dark.’

‘I think someone has been awake too long,’ teased Blue.

‘It was there! It’s always there! Following me every night.’

‘Okay okay, it must have learnt to recognise you.’

The girls had moved closer together and further away from him, trying not to make it obvious. One change in the tone of his voice and they immediately perceived him as a threat. He could see in their eyes they no longer assumed he wouldn’t hurt them. Quicker than he could click his fingers he’d been made to feel like had to go out of his way to assure them he wasn’t a predator. It was one of the things that made him sad about the world. He didn’t even want to be there.

He’d planned this night to go very differently, would he have the nerve to do what he wanted now?

‘Maybe I should go,’ he said.

Coastal (Part 2)

Tendrils rose off his shoulders to dissipate as he arrived at the rock pool nestled on the beach. He unclipped his helmet and started down the hill, treading the steps carefully in the dark. Halfway down he heard voices and looked up. Disappointment creased his brow as he saw two people sitting on the edge of the pool. Girls by the sound of it and as he looked closer he realised they were naked, or at least topless. They had their backs to him so he decided he’d quickly return the way he came and ride on to the next beach. Angry that anyone but him should be out there at such a time he tramped too heavily and dislodged a stone which rolled down the remaining distance of the stairs. One of the girls, in fact women around his age he noticed when they turned, spied him begin to walk away and called out.

‘Hey, you don’t have to leave.’

Holding his helmet by his side he ran his fingers through tousled blonde hair. Although he was tempted to join them now he’d seen their profiles, he shrugged and shook his head.

‘I kind of came here to be alone.’

The same one spoke again, she had sandy dreadlocks. The other had darker hair, perhaps dyed blue. Their mannerisms didn’t strike him as being typical skinny dippers, whatever that was.

‘You’d rather be alone than share a pool with two nude girls?’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘I’m really not sure how to answer that question.’

The other woman piped up. If he was being honest with himself she was stunning but it wasn’t what he came for.

‘Hey I think I recognise you, do you remember me?’

Now he’d heard her voice and taken a step or two closer yes he did. They’d had classes together a couple of times. He remembered a few occasions he’d not been able to stop himself admiring her.

‘Yeah I remember you.’ He also recalled she was about twenty-five, which changed his whole perspective of the situation. Mid-twenties skinny dippers were infinitely more interesting than teens. It spoke of breaking the mould, resisting the world view about what growing up meant. He’d never understood why maturity was a word that simply had to replace fun and adventure, frown upon them, and wipe them away like dusters on chalkboards.

‘Well come down, let’s talk.’

Coastal (Part 1)

When he exhaled a deeper breath and a streetlight was near, he saw steam rise up from his mouth and disappear. For some reason he was always afraid he’d lose more than carbon dioxide, like perhaps his soul might fade away into the ether too.

Every now and then a piece of gravel would grind under his wheel and he would grimace. The tyres were always vulnerable, and him with them. He was out for a midnight ride. Black socks, black shorts, black shirt, black helmet; a sentient shadow. The bike path snaked the coastline, blurred like an analogue TV picture in the moonlight. He felt like an animal on a track, nose down, about important business. All he could hear were his tyres rotating, his nostrils circulating air, and the sea pounding in his right ear. There was comfort in the fact no one on earth knew where he was in that moment. At his apartment a phone and wallet lay deserted on the kitchen table. His company was his own. His quiet company.

Houses stood silent in rows on his left. Bodies rested in there asleep or awake, it didn’t matter. None of them knew he’d passed by, beating out a cadence on the pedals, flying like a guided spirit to his destination. One thing bothered him though. There was a dog, a Labrador as far as he could tell. It never came from the same direction but it always settled in behind his back wheel and came chasing after him, not barking or growling but loping along behind like a companion, as if it knew him. It upset his rhythm, made him feel hurried as he inevitably pedalled faster to lose it. Until the next time.