I was used to East Coast waters - sharp and rough, pulling me in and under for too long, grating my knees against the sea floor, filling my throat with sand, leaving me heady and exhausted and feeling something close to shame.
Five hundred kilometers south, all challenge was lost. Still and sparkling under white light, this new water left no mark on my body, and in it’s warmth I was weightless.
Stranger still, he didn’t seem to mind when I touched him in the water. On the street and at the supermarket and in my bed he was moving further away, but in pockets of the sea he let me wrap my legs around his waist and touch his sunburnt neck.
For three days we swam, walked the South Island coastline and ate coleslaw from a sweaty plastic bag that he carried against his hot skin in a grey backpack.
Words curdled in my mouth and our greasy apologies spilt onto the track and congealed around the roots of the fern trees.
He laughed that perhaps he’d want me more if I were Jewish, or an amputee. Something controversial.
Late one afternoon we drove further south to an exposed beach blanketed with driftwood, and lay apart in clearings on the sand.
I listened to the water and talked about dreams I’d had of him years earlier, lying next to my boyfriend in a damp bed. In these dreams I had searched for him in airport terminals, aboard crowded ferry crossings, and along the windswept streets of my city at night. Sometimes the dreams had turned cloudy and heavy, my body folding into his, fingers feeling for his belt.
Mostly though, I’d just dreamt of looking for him.
He didn’t speak, but after some time he leaned across and over me and kissed the skin just beneath the line of my watermelon bikini. I thought about how there would now be sand on his lips, and about how much I wanted to wipe them clean with my fingers.
He moved up into the shade of the trees, and though I could feel my salted skin burning, I stayed on the hot sand and repeated important words: lucid, transparent, translucent.
Katie Glover studied English Literature in her hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. She is currently living in Edinburgh and trying to quit an addiction to BBQ Pringles. She is beginning to collect her words together at invisibleiceblock.wordpress.com.