La Mer

By Marisa Tam

I follow him against my better judgment, knowing that I should go home, forget him and this city I could never love, the sailors and the fish blood on the street. Yet I follow. We walk along a pier of rocks, a strip of rough land laid into the sea, for what purpose I do not know. We walk for hours, it seems, the rocks prodding my feet through my shoes, before he stops and tells me to look up. I do.

“What do you think?? he asks.

“C’est... c’est...? The language fails me, and I simply breathe: “It’s beautiful.?

Azure blue waves stretch from our feet to the horizon, white caps tumbling in the distance, the clear water lapping at the rocks on which I stand. His fingers brush mine, moving to settle between them, linking us together in this moment.

The word epiphany forms in my mind, and I wonder what the French would call it. Here, we are two tiny, insignificant breaths in the great gale of wind. We are fleeting heartbeats and violent opposites connected by the tenuous union of hands, the small caress of simple human contact in the face of the unrelenting sea. This moment is the closest I have ever come to God. I am Eve, holding on to Adam, wondering what the brave new world has in store for us.

I feel his heartbeat in his fingers. It races, trips over itself in its haste to meet my own, which is quickening in response. How is it that we can fight and tear each other to shreds, and yet our unspilled blood still burns, passion confused between hatred and love?

This must be the temptation. Perhaps I stand not with Adam, but with the serpent at my side. He has led me here, shown me what it is to know the world, and now am I to taste the apple? I consult the ancient, impassive sea, and beg her for answers. I miss the response in the wind, so I look at him instead. I hate him. I love him. I want him, beyond all reason or counsel. In his eyes I see the earth of France, deep, rich brown in which to settle my roots, to find my place in this strange land. A corona of blue surrounds him, dark hair and dark eyes against the sea and sky, the earthly against the heavenly. I brush his lips—a kiss, but not a consent. I cannot stay in Marseille. I cannot go to Paris. I hate him, I love him, I want him.

The wind that whips my hair carries in its breath the sounds of the port. The ships, the sailors, fishmongers and seafarers, the cries of a city drowning in the sea, reveling in the shade. I cannot stay where the ground seems to move underfoot with the swells of the sea, where humanity stands against the power of the water.

“Viens,? he is saying. “Viens.?

The rocks prod my feet through my shoes. The clear water laps at the rocks on which I stand. There is no serpent, no apple, no sin.

There is only the sea.

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This page contains a single entry by Department of English published on May 13, 2008 7:50 PM.

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