Someone told me she committed suicide by walking into the ocean one day. She just walked in and poof! No more Ingrid Jonker. I don’t think I can do that. But I do think, I think about her as I open the Trellidor and then the sliding door. I think of her feet as I watch mine cross a wooden patio which turns into grass which turns into sand which turns into mud. I think of her being engulfed by waves as my ankles then calves then knees are swallowed by the lake. I stop. Stop. Please, stop!
It’s refreshing. I’m wet – top to toe – though from the knees up it’s all sweat dripping down to mix with water. It’s hotter than it should be for this time of year, but Al Gore did warn us; climate change could kill us all. One degree too hot or cold and we’re gone – one of the thermia’s; hypo- or hyper-. My nightie sticks to my knees. It itches. Fucking silk, shit, Jesus, get off. Off, get off!
Ingrid Jonker just walked and walked and walked and never stopped.
I curl my toes in the sand, bury them deep down. The sand is thick and sends bubbles up to pierce the surface of the water as I bury my feet alive. Buried alive at sea; I couldn’t think of a worse fate. The water is shallow for at least ten metres, only then does it begin its decline into the darkest depths. I know this because I’ve walked that pilgrimage before, only you were here beside me to walk with me. Now you are not. I have left you up, up past the mud which becomes sand which becomes grass which becomes a wooden patio. I’ve left you beyond the sliding and Trelli-ed doors, up oak stairs, in our bed. Warm and safe. The thought of you stops me in my journey. I turn to look up at the house, at the window beyond which you are probably still sleeping soundly. You’ve never known, my darling, you’ve never known.
I begin my descent. Naked and hot I walk into the warm water and walk and walk and walk until it is covering my breasts and clavicle. A few more steps and I will follow in the footsteps of my namesake, but with a lagoon instead of an ocean and no poetry to leave in my wake. I hear a voice calling to me from beyond the veil and I think, I believe for a moment that it is her voice, Ingrid Jonker’s, calling me to her, ready to welcome me into her very exclusive club of women brave enough to walk and walk and walk until their legs stop moving. But the voice is deep as the water which splashes behind me and I know that it is not her. It is you.
You swim up behind me and hold me and I feel your love pressing against my thigh. You are naked too. And hot. And I am wet. You ask me if I’ve enjoyed my morning swim. What time did I get up? Why didn’t I wake you? Yes. Early. I didn’t want to disturb you, I thought I’d just slip out. You slip in and we kiss and fuck and I see Ingrid Jonker’s hand behind your eyes; beckoning to me, trying to pull me in to her. You pull into me and we explode under water. I collapse but you hold me, are holding me, and carry me up and out of the water, over the mud, sand, grass, through sliding- and Trelli-doors – both still open – up oak stairs and place me, still wet, into bed.
These chaste sheets absorb the lake water like a pad does blood. I am itching. The cotton clings to me tighter than the silk did. That can’t be right. I am in the water, going down, down, down, but it is not comforting and warm and delicious. No. It is tight. It wraps itself around me, sticking to my skin, covering it. I kick and kick and kick but the more I do the heavier my legs become and the harder it is to move them. I flounder, flail, thrust, thrash, anything, everything to avoid the dark unknown. My legs are bound by exhaustion and will not work. I need to sleep at last. I give up, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t, please, I give up.
But you hold me anyway. Both our bodies frigid and pressed together. That swim must’ve tired me out, I must’ve fallen asleep, did I have another nightmare? That’s what you ask after a while, after you heard my legs attempting to save their comrades throughout my anatomy. I nod.
I’m cold. You’ve just run a bath, do I want to take one? I nod. Try to move my legs, but they’re wrapped in the sheets so tightly that I can’t get them free. You stand, free me, lift my naked body from the wet sheets and carry me to the bathroom. You lower me ever so carefully into the warm water of the antique bathtub.
I ask if you’re going to join me. You say no, you think I’ve had enough excitement for one morning, that I should just lay back and warm up. That you’ll clean me up.
I’m about to ask you what you mean when you start to lather a washrag with soap and, raising my leg out of the water, wash me. You’re very delicate, washing around my lied-about bruises and cuts. Around the ones from ballet, hiking, shaving, throwing myself down the stairs. Your eyes are fixed on the parts which you are thoroughly but carefully cleaning. After you’ve finished I ask if I can just lie in it for a while. You agree, light some candles, ask me if I’ll be okay as you go. I say yes, but you leave the door open.
The bath is warm but not warm enough to melt what’s inside me. I raise my knees to totally immerse my head. Eyes open, I stare through the water, over the bath, to the ceiling. My eyes follow the steam as it rises from beyond the tip of my nose. I picture my soul floating with the steam – parts of it evaporating out of my body, through the water, into the ceiling and then up, up, up, until I am just a body. I always see it going up, never down. Although I don’t particularly expect to go up. After everything, the least I deserve is down. I sink deeper. My thoughts become bubbles as I exhale them into my death.
Your hand around my neck pulls me up as I empty my lungs into the already full bath water. You demand to know what I’m doing. I say something about needing to wash my hair. You nod. Pull a bottle of shampoo out of the cabinet, sit me up, lather, rinse, repeat. Towel, stand, left leg out, right leg out, wrapped in the softness. Plug pulled. I watch the water get sucked into the drain and he parts of my soul which I exhaled into it are sucked down too.
You sit on the toilet and watch me watching myself drain away. You thought this trip would be good for me, that it would help me be more like my old self again. I say sorry, that I thought so too. You don’t know if you’re strong enough for this. I don’t expect you to be, my demons are my own to carry. You put your head in your hands. Is this it then? I suppose it is. I drop my towel, sit on your lap and hold you as you cry. I feel your tears rolling down my back. You say you love me, I love you too but I’m still cold inside. You tried to warm me, to set me alight, but you couldn’t. I tell you it’s not your fault, that you are perfect and I am ruined. An old castle crumbling from years of wars tearing through the lands. You deny this, tell me I am not ruined, I am not ruined. I loved you more than I ever thought I would, but nothing can fix this, nothing but Ingrid. You don’t understand what I mean by Ingrid. I tell you that you don’t have to, and that you don’t have to stay. You want to, but you don’t think you can anymore. I get off your lap and pack your bags. You cry in the bathroom. I wonder if you’ll ever stop loving me, I wonder if it will kill you before it kills me. I pack your things into the single bag that we brought for the weekend. I am delicate with your things. More than I am with myself. How will I get home? I’ll find a way. Our bag on the floor now with your clothes in it and mine still in the drawer. How will I get all of my things back to town? Do I not want to keep the bag? I look at you, shrug my shoulders. You stand, walk to me, wrap yourself around me. I kiss your neck, I will miss you, you will always have a piece of my heart. You pull me tighter, kiss me, we make love for the last time and it’s the first time I’ve felt you against me. My skin feels you. My body is on fire. I cry and you cry and we finish in a heap of tears and sweat and cum. I roll over and fall asleep almost immediately but not before I hear you say Goodbye.