Mannequin Monday – Ocean, You Owe Me a Body
Welcome to another week of Mannequin Monday. The place where we drape the naked form with words, images, shapes, texture. The magic of story.
Today, the featured story starts where sea meets land. We drape the form with wet sand, with overpowering sea water, with “landlocked grief.” The story is Across the Sea: A Sequence, by Gbenga Adesina.
My own writing sample today is titled “Cold Pizza”. A man waits at the beach for a woman. For a fresh start.
This Week’s Story
Nigerian writer Gbenga Adesina brings us a poem, a story of the sea. Adesina is second-place winner in Narrative Magazine’s eleventh annual poetry contest.
The sea as a place where life meets death. Where dreams meet reality. His piece is titled: Across the Sea: A Sequence. You can read all of it in Narrative Magazine’s website.
In Adesina’s poetic story I see immigrants. Struggling to escape to a new life. Fighting the sea. Perhaps fighting a sea they have never seen or dealt with before. Landlocked people driven from their homelands. Crowded on barely-seaworthy boats to cross to a land with opportunity. With hope. Hope now drowning in sea water.
Here is a quote from Adesina’s Across the Sea:
A man is bent on his knees, wailing at the waters.
He slaps his hand on the wet sand and rough-cut stones
the way one might fight a brother.
He grabs the shirt of the sand as though they are in a tussle.
The stones here carry the island’s low cry inside them.
A landlocked grief. They say the man was a newlywed.
Now his vows are inside the water.
He claws at the sand. He wails: “Ocean,
you owe me a body. Ocean, give me back my lover.”
“Ocean, you owe me a body.” What a moving statement. A newlywed man on the edge of a new land grieves his missing spouse. He has his grief but no closure. She is gone. Lost to the sea. Their life is gone as well.
The imagery is so strong. He wails at the waters. He slaps his hand on wet sand. He claws at the sand. “Ocean, give me back my lover.”
How many immigrants have had exactly this experience? Thousands, I would think.
My Current Writing
The photo of the pizza place on Fire Island inspired this short story. I hope you enjoy it.
A man sits on the tiny bench in front of a pizza shop, a pepperoni pizza on his lap. He holds the box up to keep oil and heat off his legs. The shop sits around the corner from the Ocean Beach ferry terminal on Fire Island. A Friday evening in early June. The last ferry from Bay Shore has disgorged a crowd of eager beachgoers. People stream by, pulling red wagons piled with backpacks, overnight bags, weekend supplies. Fire logs, groceries, fresh corn. Bicycles and kids weaving everywhere. Adults in flip-flops.
He sees the families re-uniting as working spouses get to the island for the weekend. Kids are jumping. Competing to tell their story first. The smell of sunscreen almost overpowers the salt air.
To his right the sun is lowering on the horizon. The American flag over the store front twitches feebly in the afternoon breeze.
A song lyric runs through his head. Something about it all starting now. He can’t wait to see her.
As the crowd thins, he stands a moment and looks for her down the walk. Nothing.
He sits again, takes out a slice. Oil runs off the slice into the box. The tip of the slice folds under as he tries to take a bite. He looks up to see if anyone is staring at him. Wipes his chin with a handful of napkins. Sips from a Coke cup. Pushes his sunglasses to the top of his head.
He chews on the pizza. Looks down the walk again. She is not there. All the ferry passengers have moved on to their cottages.
The pizza loses its taste. Cold. Oily. The pepperoni looks like cardboard cutouts. Where is she?
An ache squeezes his heart tight. Like he just stepped between two buildings. Pressure. Crushing.
What did I do? Was it me?
He reaches for his phone. Text her? What’s the point? She didn’t text me. Did not say she would not come. Yeah, she sounded hesitant yesterday. But no text to say no.
He stares at the sidewalk as though there is a huge black hole in the center. A gap. An absence.
She isn’t here.
She won’t be here.
“You need help eating that pizza?”
He looks up. Her face is in shadow, backlit by the lowering sun, framed by a wide-brimmed straw hat.
“Of course I did.”
“I didn’t see you come off the ferry.”
She sits next to him.
“I came over on the early ferry.”
He looks puzzled. “Where were you till now?”
She reaches over, opens the box, takes out a slice.
“I went for a long walk on the beach.”
“That almost sounds like a cliche.”
She nods. Bites into the slice.
“You saying I’m a cliche?”
He smiles. “Hell, no. Far from it.”
She takes another bite of the slice. Talks while chewing.
“Fire Island beaches are the best. I could walk here forever. Summer or winter.”
She taps the pizza box. “Summer or winter…with you.”
Comments are welcome.
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