Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Il Mare



(“The Sea” in Italian)

Inspired by Sandro Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus and written in the vein of Margaret Atwood’s Bread.

by Sharon Ho

You stand proudly on the prow of your ship Swift Katherine, named after your sweet fiancee, who shed copious tears unto your chest on the eve of your departure, tears which are not unlike the salty waters that your ship is swiftly slicing through. A salty sea breeze lovingly caresses the luscious hair that cascades down your shoulders, and it reminds you of the passionate lovemaking you enjoyed with Kate on your last night together. This memory elicits a smile on your sunburned face, and suddenly restless, you stride purposefully towards the ship’s railings. Gazing down into the azure depths of the ocean, you ponder its fathomless mysteries. What secrets lies yonder, you wonder. Perhaps mermaids, nereids and other mythical creatures do inhabit its boundless depths, all ruled by King Triton in the lost fabled city of Atlantis. Oh how you wish for the ability to breathe underwater, so that you may better explore all the amazing hidden wonders that the sea has to offer. Yes, although you do love Kate dearly, the sea will always be your first love, as surely as the lingering memory of Kate’s husky voice and lavender perfume is inexorably replaced by the briny tang in the air and the raucous shrieks of the seagulls who accompany you on your voyage.

The sea that you do so love has turned treacherous. As unpredictable as she is mercurial, she has sent a tumultuous storm to wreck your ship, as easily as though it was a child’s toy. You have been unceremoniously flung onto the watery depths, where you flay about fruitlessly to stay afloat of the roiling waves that slam into you every hour, every minute, every second. Your laughably pathetic attempts fail miserably as you swallow your weight in saltwater. After seemingly decades of this ceaseless struggle, your world fades to an infinite black. They say that in every person’s last moments on earth, a whole life of regrets flashes through your mind. So you would think that your last thoughts, as you drown in your watery grave, would be of Kate’s warm, soft lips as she embraced you with a longing desperate kiss before you board your ship. But no, in your last moments of struggle, the sole endless litany chanting through your mind is: “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die...”

You wake up completely battered and bruised, as the hot blazing sun scorches your already parched skin. You hurt all over, even in places you didn’t know existed. The hard gritty sand under you does nothing to ease your discomfort and wearily, creaking like an old man of eighty, you slowly struggle to your feet to peruse your surroundings. You find that you have been stranded on a tiny island barely ten feet wide. Exhausted by even this slight exertion, you collapse once again by the shore. All your senses narrow to a single sharp point, which is the excruciating thirst you feel, the constant burning and stabbing pain in your throat. The waves seem to lull you to drink the cool liquid seawater, but you know that doing so would doom you even more. How ironic, you think, to die of dehydration surrounded by miles and miles of water. An immeasurable amount of time passes, and you find you can bear it no longer. You dunk your head into the waters and drink in long draught after long draught. Pretty soon you are seized by an even more unquenchable thirst, and slowly but surely you begin to hallucinate.

You witness the Titan Cronus using a scythe to sever the genitals of his father, the sky god Uranus. Cronus flings the genitals into the ocean, and from the white foam that formed rose the goddess of love, Aphrodite, who floats ashore towards you on a scallop shell.

Strangely enough, Aphrodite is the spitting image of Katherine. She looks like she always does, a vision as a diaphanous gown of sheer silk hugs the curvaceous contours of her body. She reaches out her hand to you, yet you refuse to take it for fear that everything will dissolve into oblivion once you do. The lavender perfume scenting her hair calms your fears, and at this point you don’t really care anymore whether she is real or simply just a figment of your imagination. As you reach out to touch her lily white hands, this thought crosses your mind: that although the sea may indeed be your first love, you love and cherish Kate more.

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