The Capsize

HANNA WAGNER


Offended is not the word for what I felt. The seagulls, those sky-rats, sat beside me. Were they blind? Could they not see I was beautiful?

My skin is clear, bright white; saltwater never leaks my eyes; when I go out, my skirts billow in the wind. How could those animals, those horrible birds, choose me as their target?

Over there, I say to them, she’s the one to dirty so. With her tattered dress, her chapped lips, those creaking bones? No one would notice. So they left me alone: left me to wash their waste from my porch.

That night, I lie awake, neither the whistle of wind through the heron’s wings by my head nor the clanging of halliards in my ear enough to lull me to sleep.

I hear a call. Quiet, weak, like no voice I recognise. My vision is impeccable; I look towards it–a face across the fairway.

I don’t look that way often; my friends would never live there. But to and from my weekly outings, I may glance that way, meet those eyes, even exchange a greeting. She is much too large for her home, I think, but no one seems to have noticed.

But she looks different today. Her dress remains tattered and her skin still like sandpaper, but she sits differently now. Then I see it: the water is overtaking her, slowly. No one is coming to help.

It’s slow, the capsize. It’s always slow. It’s too late, I think. But then, I know it isn’t. Perhaps I should have done something. Sent help. A kind word in her direction. A parting word, at least. But what difference would it have made? What if my friends had seen?

We were not friends. I liked to think I did not know her at all. But–I think, as I watch her mast disappear–I might have been her only hope.

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