His dad’s dad had built the boat, age 15. His dad swapped the wood for plastic as a project, after spreading the ashes of the man that raised him, and taught him how to sail. He decided to keep the tradition afloat, but couldn’t do that without dragging the boat into years its creator would never see. He worked until it was safe to sail again, and he had begun to feel easier. The hands of grief slipped with each blow of the hammer; respecting the past, building for the future. A legacy of material and water. But life caught up and he had to work. The garage door shut.
The boy went looking for the key, on the day the girl he loved said she didn’t feel the same. He dragged the boat over the small field, and lifted it over the stone wall, creating a slight dent on the bottom left of the yellowing outer shell. He walked it to the water’s edge, checked his bag, nodded and sailed. When he thought the water looked deep enough, using only the darkness of the blue as a guide, he let out a line.
The sky was beginning to burn when he resigned himself to failure. He threw the stick to the ground, causing a black scuff on the peeling paint of the blue inner wall; the day had melted and he had felt no bite. ‘I can’t do it and I never will’ he muttered, stomping his feet out of failure to find any other way to release his anger. He looked out, acknowledging that he may have sailed a little too far from shore for an amateur, but aware that the feeling in the pit of his stomach still pulsed with the breaking of the waves. Suddenly, he took off his shoes. He took off his coat, his jeans, but left on his shirt, insecure about his skinny, teenage chest.
He stood up on the ledge and stepped off, falling into the water that enveloped him. He had decided that if he could not catch them, he would join them.
The grey blue of the morning sky had returned, on the 215th time he emerged on the surface. He had grown neither gills, nor a fin to allow him to swim better than a mediocre level, deemed acceptable in primary school swimming lessons. He saw that the boat had floated back towards the stones of the shore.
‘Maybe when our loved ones die, they become our Gods. The wind of our lives become controlled by them, the sights of the sky spun by them. Each to our own religion, of family morals and memories. Grandad wants to keep his boat.’
He distracted himself from the water, which had become significantly colder in the morning air, with thought. He wondered whether his grandad would recognise him, for he’d only met him a couple of times as a baby. He thought maybe the cold was a punishment for the stranger that stole his boat. The wind an attempt to get his old livelihood away from the boy that could neither fish, nor be a fish.
He noticed his dad’s car parked on the beach, just out of reach of the tide. He pulled the boat out of the water, as his dad rolled down the window, only to say ‘I’ll meet you back at the house’.
To remind himself, he made a mental note; ‘teach the children how to fish and sail this boat.’
(Photography by Elizabeth Evans, Words by Lucy Harbron)