Monday, February 24, 2014

Short a Lease - Eric Maroney


July, at 19

            “Are you sure you can swim?’  She asked, leaning toward him.  Her blond hair, nearly white from continual exposure to the sun, was wet and gleaming against her scalp.  Her blue-black eyes, set wide apart and always brimming with lively motion, moved from his left eye to his right and back again, as if the answer lay on one side or the other of his inscrutable face, behind the veil of his brown, dropping eyes. 

            “Of course, why not?”  He answered.  Joy Shein gazed down at his sutured wrist and then up again to his dark, sloping face.

            “But Servi,” she began, only to smother her sentence at the bud.  She looked away from the boy and his brown, implacable face and at the line where the horizon and sea improbably met. 
              She called Aaron Servi by his last name, in different styles, moods and inclinations, that  told him he had old soul; a soul which had been used and battered in some previous avatar, and now here, back in the boy of Aaron Servi, the soul was forced to reenact its masochistic rituals, the purgation from some former sins. 
           And his young body, already besmirched by this distraught and turbulent soul, had already been harmed.  And now she had kissed that boy Hunter.  Kissed him and allowed him certain liberties above the waist, while Servi was only given token physical gestures, which Joy often appeared to regret.  A long kiss in front of her father’s bungalow which teetered and verged more ardently toward something else, something pulling them both toward an abyss.  But mostly she canceled  these dark moments, these secret mummers which boys and girls channel to each other across a primal medium by an incessant stream of verbal intimacy.

            That and the kiss had pushed Servi to tamper with his wrist.   Servi’s parents then informed Joy’s father in the hushed and reverential tone one uses for those who try and take their lives not with real intention or gusto, but as a ‘cry for help.’  So Joy stopped seeing the boy.

            But Joy Shein did not listen long to their admonitions.  She surreptitiously gazed at Servi down the street, as he walked out of the old A&P.  She spied on him as he sat on the yellow sand, a white bandage wrapped around his wrist as if some Egyptian priests has started the process of mummification, only to end it with the first application of gauze.  Then one day the bandage was gone, and Servi was by the sea, not moving much, shifting his backside listlessly in the sand.   Eventually Joy narrowed her orbit around Servi until she was sitting next to him, and he suggested they take a swim.

            “I’m not sure I should swim today, Servi,” Joy answered after suggesting he should not swim and meeting with a cold glare.  Her voice trailed off at the end, in the vast, penetrating light of the wide, windy beach.  She kept glancing down at the stitches in Servi’s wrist, bluish and faded like a tattoo.  They were just tiny, fragile thread, holding back the flood of his life.

            “Why not?”  Servi poked.  “You are a better swimmer than me."
            “Dad said there's a storm off the coast,” Joy answered, squinting into the bright water, which heaved like a cup of frothy foam in a great, unsettled basin.  It was as if the ocean was angry at the land, and could not purge its hate from its unsettled heart.

            “Common’” Servi taunted.  “Since when do you do what your father says?”  And Servi rose up and sprinted into the surf.  Joy lost sight of him for a moment as a swell rose over his head.  Servi was nestled in the valley between breakers.  When she stood up, adjusting her bikini, she could see his  black head, just beyond a line of commanding waves.

            Joy dove into the water and could feel the powerful current against the long line of her body.  A wave towered over her, and she dove into the water, cutting through its sheer bulk.  When she emerged out the other side, she was surprised to find herself next to Servi.  He smiled lightly, mockingly.  The slight trace of derision on his face made her fearful, as if he had led her out here so they would both drown together; so that he could complete the act he had failed to do two weeks ago, but this time take her with him.  She swam toward him and they kissed.  When they parted, he frowned.  High above them, gulls swooped and screeched above them speaking in their mad argot.

            “Don’t kiss me, damn it!” Servi hissed.

            “You’ve got too many hang up, Servi,” Joy scolded.  “I kissed Hunter.  I kissed you.  What difference does it make?  Don’t get so upset.”

            “I’m not upset…”

            “But Servi,” Joy cried, pulling him toward her by both hands.  “I need to know.  You didn’t do that, do this,” she indicated Servi’s wrist, “because of that stupid kiss I gave Hunter, did you?”

            “I didn’t do it because of you… because of the kiss…”

            “Why then?”

            “I… I don’t know.  Maybe it was the kiss.   Maybe it wasn’t, all I know is…”

            Servi swiveled his head.  The current had carried them, in only a few seconds, so far from the land that all they could see was the brown tower at Robert Moses State Park poking over the choppy water.

            “Jesus, we gotta swim back now…” 

            Servi and Joy began the long, painful crawl back toward the shore, against the tide.  A line of chalky clouds had blown in from some unseen point on the compass and the cool wind began to nip at their exposed arms and legs. 

            “Servi!  Servi!”  the boy turned his head.  Joy, who was there one moment, was gone the next.  Her blond hair was plastered to her head, and her lips were fixed with an expression of agony and fading hope.  She was below the water.  Servi dove for her. 
             In the green-black darkness, he extended his hands outward, afraid to move, fearful of choosing the wrong direction.  But then he lunged forward.  In the cold depths he felt the electric sensation of warm flesh.  He grasped it and pulled .  He had Joy by the waist.  She began to cough. Servi kept repeating, with machine like precision:  its alright… its alright.   

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