The Sea Series: Down the bay

Words by Bronte Coates

Published on July 18, 2012

My brother asks me for a ride to the shops and I say okay because it’s summer and my mother is driving me crazy about the heat. She keeps washing dishes. Just before, I poured myself some water and then came back and found the glass emptied and stacked in our dish drainer with big soapsuds stuck to the sides. When I told her to leave my glasses alone for chrissake she threw her arms in the air and said, well I was only trying to help.

I come out to the car and Harry is already slumped down in the passenger seat with sunglasses dark enough that I can’t tell if the dumb kid’s sleeping behind them. He doesn’t say anything at first, but when I start the ignition he leans forward and cranks the air-con. Hot air blasts in my face just as he starts in about this thing his girlfriend does in the bedroom. I haven’t had sex in months so listening to my brother describe Amanda’s tits bouncing in the moonlight becomes annoying pretty quick and I tell him so. Well, he says, I was just making conversation, and I tell him he sounds exactly like our mother and then he says, just find another girlfriend for fuck’s sake.

Resting back in the driver’s seat with the stink of the car around me, I start thinking back to holidays when we were kids. Mum arguing with dad in the front seat while Harry whines beside me, and the dry scrub drifting around us. The memory is so familiar I almost feel homesick. I lower my voice and say, hey kids how d’ya feel about gettin our flappers wet. Harry shrugs and because it’s still so hot and because sweat is running down my neck I pull out on to the highway.

The bay is wide and flat, no surf to speak of. No one around. Just a hot, still day in the middle of the week. I remember it being much busier when were kids. C’mon then, I say to Harry and give him a shove. He shoves back a little but I’m already unfolding my legs out of the car, shaking out my shoulders. I put my hands behind my hips and bend back to pop air out of the joints.

Jesus, says Harry. He comes around to stand in front of me with his arms crossed. He’s still wearing his sunnies and now I’m looking straight at them I can see big dirty smudges on the lenses. Let’s go then, I say and I bend back even more to give myself one last tearing crack. Jesus, Harry says again, you okay there. He turns away and leans back on the car, facing toward the sea. I look out and with the sun so big and yellow, the reflection looks like the horizon is on fire.

C’mon, I put on my dad’s voice again, let’s have a dip then. Harry doesn’t even turn around, just shrugs. It’s too hot, he mutters and I can’t help giving him a second shove. This time he turns around to glare at me. Piss off, he says. Come on, I say again, I’ll give you a fifty if you beat me to the water. I give him one more little push and he starts toward me but I’m already off, leaving my thongs behind.

I’m pretty much drowning for air straightaway. My heart is hammering at a thousand bolts or something and my legs feel too heavy. It’s been a long time since I ran anywhere. Not since I moved back in with my mum and brother who doesn’t clean up after shaving in the shower and I don’t mean his face. I don’t know if he’s following me now. I just keep moving toward that fiery horizon, my feet and heart banging along. And then I hear him behind me. His breathing is all kinds of harsh. I push my legs harder. I think, c’mon c’mon c’mon. He’s getting so close I can feel his heat. We crash into that still water like goddamn stallions.

I put my hands on my knees and take big deep breaths like they told you in gym class at school. Beside me Harry is doing the same. Pay up, he splutters out between his wet gulps. He rubs his fingers under my nose. As if, I push his hand away, you weren’t even close. I close my eyes. You dick, Harry says and with me still bent over, he flattens his palm on my lower back and shoves me for real. I go spilling into the sea. When I pop back up again I see Harry’s face has broken into the first real grin in months. Then I reach under the calm surface and give his leg a good hard yank and he comes toppling in too.

When he comes up for air there’s a hunk of seaweed wrapped over the sunnies. I start laughing and Harry tries not to but I see his mouth twitch just a bit. Then he stands up and starts walking back to shore. Where’re you heading? I call out. His t-shirt is stuck tight to his skin. I hunker down in the water with just my nose propped out like a crocodile, watching my brother as he walks out of the sea and lies back flat on the sand to dry out.

Later, when we come home again and Harry’s bought Amanda a stupid plaque with the meaning of her name on it, my mother will say, why you always got to go get sunburnt like this? Why can’t I trust you to take some care of each other? And Harry will say Jesus and I will say Jesus and I will be so happy I could almost die from it.