Today I walked alongside the river that lay leaden under a slightly bruised sky. The surface was still; even the ducks had gone. In the distance the city rose like a toothless gap in the horizon. Joggers ran past leaving a mild scent of sweat and vanity in the air. An arrogance of bike riders cruised down the road near the walking path with a simmering anger of drivers bunched behind them. I wonder at these funny little middle aged men with their faux advertising gear over their pot bellies and their skinny legs breathing their latte breaths into the Sunday morning. A couple with babies walks past despondently, their now somewhat redundant dogs leashed to the husband like a reminder of shallower love that was sufficient and is gone.
I think of you and how you loved the river that you had not seen for years until we made contact again. You flew across the country to sleep with me. In the morning I had to go to a meeting and talk sensibly to serious men. I looked at my hands differently because you had touched them and they had touched your naked body just hours before. I smelt the freshness of shirts and aftershave and found it erotic. I was in the world. You were in a train crossing a bridge. You texted me and the beep interrupted what I was saying in an air-conditioned board room. “Excuse me,” I said. I read your message: “I saw dolphins!”
Now you are back in your distant city with your distant husband. You ignore my periodic emails; you are being good. I tell myself that you will not risk answering again but maybe you tired of me like you did of him. Lovers tell such fanciful stories even when the hearer is gone.
One day my children were swimming in the river and a dolphin came close to the jetty. Everyone crowded the shoreline to see. My daughter wanted to swim out to it but then she said, “Dad, if dolphins can come this far up the river, does that mean sharks can too?” I looked at her and tried to find a way to balance truth and risk but in that moment’s pause she already realised; I saw in her eyes and faltered step that she knew something now that she could never unknow.
Today I walked home again with the memory of you and dolphins.