Surface Tension

It was the evening before the big adventure, and I needed to pack! Maybe a life jacket, some food for a picnic, a jumper in case I got cold on the water, a mobile phone in case we needed help, an underwater camera too. The next day was going to be a big one. I woke up and opened the curtains, there was a mist in the air, and it looked windy. I jumped out of bed, got dressed and got my bag ready. Then my friends knocked on the door and we were ready to go! My parents told it was time to go, and we hopped in the boat and we were off! When we finally got on the boat, we were excited but still nervous. First, we got to Trim, we saw on the way there were lots of old houses. It was very choppy and there were lots of rapids. We passed the Yellow Steeple and the castle, there are almost 10,000 people in Trim. Then we got to Navan, but we needed to get out of the boat and walk along the road for a bit. We felt very embarrassed as people were looking at us. Anyway, finally we got back into the boat and the water was flowing very fast. There are more than 30,000 people in Navan. Then we got to Slane, and the river got a lot wider there. Now we were a few hours in the boat so we thought that we could stop and have a short picnic. We found a spot on the grass, but suddenly we saw a cow walking towards us. We thought the cow would go away but it didn’t, so we decided to go back to the boat. The cow started running, so we had to jump onto the boat, and we were off again. There are almost 1,500 people in Slane. Next, we came to Drogheda where there were lots of people walking, some staring at us. It is a massive city and we know we are not far now. There are over 41,000 people that live in Drogheda. Finally, we get to our last stop at the Meath coast. We can smell the salty sea, we can see the seabirds, and there are lots of people at the beach. Around the coast of Meath there are more than 10,000 people. Our first stop is the ice-cream shop! We were met by our parents, and it was sunset already. What a great adventure!
The cold water stings my bare flesh like a hundred needles. It nips my calves, pinches my
thighs, bites my belly. I wade in swiftly, without hesitation. The pool is small and deep. Under my feet I feel sharp pebbles among the brown pine needles covering the bed of the freezing forest stream. The pain is welcome. It pierces my body and chokes my mind. For a moment, it numbs the frustration and distracts from the despair. It frees my anger, releases it like a silent cry into the fresh forest air. I had screamed and he had shouted, and then I left, with no idea of where to go. I drove too fast and in a fury, white knuckles gripping the wheel, blank eyes staring ahead, along winding country roads and narrow woodland lanes. He never listens! He will never change. He does not want to understand! When the road was no longer visible through the gathering film of tears, finally, I stopped. The place was familiar. A short walk through the darkness of evergreen trees soon ended in a light beech wood growing along the banks of the tinkling stream. There, perched on the rough granite boulders, some joyful memories lingered, from almost four years ago. There was laughter, a picnic, and splashes of white wine on my summer dress. There was his warm hand on my knee, his soft voice in my ear and sweet kisses on my collarbone.
Only four years, a lifetime ago. Now, the wind carries a chill; it is not bathing season yet. A couple more steps, then the icy water winds my lungs as it submerges my chest. I feel my muscles tightening, and at once I am comforted by their strength. Their ability to resist the cold. Their reassurance that I am still alive. An intrepid hop lifts my feet off the pebbled ground, and my body floats on the freezing waters. The pool is almost stagnant. A point of calm amid the gushing stream. Stretched out and naked, I lie on my back on top of the water. The water floods my ears, muffling out the forest noises and dulling the gurgle of the flow. It laps against my chin and my temples, it caresses my shoulders and breasts. Looking straight up, my eyes are blinded by the dappled sunlight emerging through the clouds and the overhanging branches. High above, the leaves still display the delicate translucent green of recent spring growth. I draw a long deep breath through my nose. The scents of decaying bark and damp river algae mingle with an aroma of freshly sprouted cotyledon leaves. Floating weightlessly, my fists unclench and my jaw relaxes.
I am all but still. Between the water and the breeze there lies tranquillity. When I climb back onto the bank my skin prickles numbly from the freezing water. Dark woodland detritus swirls up though the clear water column where my feet have touched the riverbed. For a while I just sit, dripping. My body feels empty, my mind is exhausted. The glittering water skips over the rocks, it ripples beneath and dances around them. It will be alright, it whispers. You can sort it out together, it purrs. He loves you dearly. And you love him. Shivering, I pull my clothes onto my wet skin. Water drips out of my hair. It runs down my neck and leaves cold patches on the back of my shirt. I am ready to go back and start anew.