Sunday 20th June 2010
Gestation: 38 weeks, 2 days
One year ago.
“Do you like them?”
I look up. There Suse stands, wearing only a bikini. The comment is ripe for misinterpretation, if it wasn’t for her solemn expression and the origami in her outstretched hands. In each palm sits a paper boat; folded crescents, like upside-down party hats. They have been painted with watercolours, pink for one, blue for the other. The paint lines trace along the folds, making them look like international envelopes, each with a large heart in their middle. And each of the boats holds a flower as its cargo.
“They’re boats. For the spirits. One for the boy, and one for the girl.”
I look up at her to see a content expression on her face.
And my chest fills up, with all of those things that you don’t realise are missing until they return.
* * * * *
We pack a bag, both wearing swimmers. We close the door behind us, taking in the perfect day outside. Where the unblemished sky hits the water is hard to tell; the palm trees dot the manicured grass like a game of tic-tac-toe.
We walk across the plush lawn carpet and onto the soft sand, heading down to the water’s edge, where our feet sink into the waterlogged sand puddles, the lukewarm shallows splashing up the backs of our legs as we go.
“We’re heading for those rocks,” Suse says, pointing. Wordlessly she hands me the blue boat, small orange flowers its cargo. In her hand, she holds the paper vessel with pink pin-striping, a rose-coloured heart painted on its hull. In it sits a pink bougainvillea. “It makes sense that you hold the boy boat,” she says.
We walk on further, our feet slapping along the water’s edge, in the quicksand; in the most-fun part. I look ahead at the rocky outcrop to which we are heading. From it springs a solitary palm. It reaches out over the water, which spreads beneath it as a turquoise blanket; there as a soft landing, should it ever decide to fall.
“It came to me when I was meditating,” Suse says finally, “that those spirits from my previous pregnancies – the ones that didn’t complete – are still with me. I need to let those spirits go.” We walk on some more. I look across at her face, her beautiful face; at the first few freckles that already beginning to emerge in the sun. “I need to let them go, to really let them go, ceremonially, so that they can return to me – to us – now that their real father is here.” She looks at me and smiles. “And we need to do it in those waters up there.” She points, again, at the teal waters over by the edge of the dark rocks.
As we stroll we link our free hands. The paper boats remain in our other hand, held out ahead; guiding us forward, in perfect symmetry.
“When we went to see that clairvoyant,” Suse continues, “she told me that there would be something. That a little ritual would come to me. And that it would come to me while we were here, in the love waters. And that I would know when it came.”
She looks across at me, her eyes smiling along with her mouth, a contentment in her face that I haven’t seen for a very long time. We walk on in silence through the water. As we get closer, we can see a group of snorkelers rounding the corner, right at the point.
“It’s okay,” I say, “they’ll move on. It will be perfect.”
As we get closer, the snorkelers get caught in a rip. They wash along, ever towards us. They remain oblivious to our presence, sliding right on by, never even aware.
By the time we reach the rocks, we are again alone.
* * * * *
Suse looks at me, taking the boat from my hand.
“I need to do this,” she says. “I’m the one who needs to let them go. When that is done, they can return.”
As she finishes saying this, her head falls slightly, a self-deprecation, a solemnity; a reverence for this moment. She turns, and walks slowly out into the shallows of the Pacific, a folded piece of paper in each hand, delicately painted with a heart, each housing a flower.
I watch my wife as she gracefully wades, riding the small waves out, further and further. And then she stops. She remains still for almost a minute, looking down. And she first lets go of the pink boat, watching it as it goes. It floats off to the left, falling on its side. Her whole body turns towards it as she quietly watches it float away. She repeats the act with the second, the boy boat. It repeats the act, yet disappears from view more quickly.
She stands for a moment watching them, the mother of these spirits, as she lets them free. And I stand for that moment watching her.
And all the time, something else watches us.
Then she turns, and my mermaid swims back to me. As she gets closer, she smiles.
“The boy sank,” she says, her nose wrinkling up. Then she lets out a light giggle.
“Bloody boys,” I say. We both laugh. “That’s okay. He’s not coming first anyway. He’s just mucking around on the bottom of the pool, waiting his turn.”
I take my wife in my arms, her slender arms looping over my shoulders.
“Do you want to say anything?” she asks.
I stop for a moment, waiting for self-consciousness to kick in. But it never comes.
“In letting the spirits of this boy and girl go,” I start, “these spirits that have been with Suse since they were last in bodily form are now free. And with that, they are finally free to return, when they are ready, to us, so that they can be ours, to share as ours, two halves of us, our spirits that are already there.”
She hugs me tightly.
“We’re ready when you are,” she whispers. “We’re ready.”
Suse keeps her arms slung around my neck, but makes a quarter turn, so we can both watch the little pink boat and its flower, bobbing up and down on the lapping waves; the spirit of this little girl that we are now ready to receive.
* * * * *