I was on the second ship leading the north Atlantic convoy, which was one of six in total. My head was screaming with the cold, my fingers numb and becoming number as the minutes passed. We had to transfer mid ocean from our small liners to the bigger ones, the ones that could break the ice of the north, the ones that could pass by and crunch the icebergs that would otherwise soon sink these tropical ships that we had come this far on.
Morning medicine, my mourning drink. I was sick of the air, sick of my mouth tasting of salt, my cracked lips and shaggy dog appearance. I was becoming a wreck, like the Titanic in her grave slowly rusting, slowly breaking down to her elemental beginnings.
I was home, verdant fields of tall grass framed by never-ending blue skies and cradled by deep pleasant dreams. The wooden door creaked as I opened it, I announced I was home and I heard the movement of my lover in our shared bed. I imagined the sheets cascading off her body, the soft smooth silk of her skin and the comely shape of her buttocks, the two small welcoming dimples at the base of her spine. The curls of her hair resting on her shoulders, her sumptuous breasts that were full of milk, nipples pert and erect.
Home smelt like home. This was salt, this was corrosion. The transfer was awful, I saw their pale and emaciated bodies silent in the bunks, numerous across the whole range of decks. We could not go on like this, we must not go on like this. Moving the bodies was horrendous, a horrible job. I had thrown my younger brother around as a child and had remembered how heavy he was even when young, how I could feel the weight of his happy soul. This was something else, the bodies far lighter than they had any right to be. Glassy deep blue eyes set silent in paper thin crevices for faces.
I loved her then and I loved her still. There was something wonderful about the moment between coming home from work and announcing my entry to the wooden house. This was the liminal zone, I was neither away nor settled on the prairie. When I remembered this moment consciously I tried to slow it down, to breathe in deeply, to try and enjoy the moment when I’d open the door and see her gorgeous brown eyes, the flicker of the smile that would start to spread across her face as she spied me coming in.
I could almost taste that moment, but the foghorn soon reminded me that I was a thousand miles away, surely more, from my beloved.
The bodies had been swiftly moved from the ice breakers to the tropic liners without any difficultly. I was convinced that our skeletal crew would break down at this task but we kept quiet and professional, we carried out our task with ease and left the liners floating in peace in warmer climes, buffeted by only the smallest of oceanic waves.
Silently our breakers made the way north, the ocean becoming day by day peppered with more chunks of frozen sea than I could count. Chunks that could rip and tear steel, that could doom whole convoys and destroy even the hardest of souls.
I craved her touch more than ever at this point. My cracked lips had become something beyond sore, something that I knew hurt but was pushed deeper into my sub-consciousness.
I missed her hips the most, how my hand would follow the contour of her outer hip bone and glide slowly into the girdle where the delicate touch of my lips would meet her soft warm skin. Where I knew that when she arched her back she was that much more relaxed, ready to give in to the carnal sin of our shared passion.
The bow of the ship cuts the ice, the sea underneath, and our dreams as clean as any knife I have ever known. Our hopes are cleaved into two. The ocean is our life, the seabed our grave.
Photograph by author using a Pentax S1a and cheap film.