~~ “Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.”
― Dorothy Allison
Was this the right decision? Its majestic superiority scorned me and I momentarily cast my eyes from the beast, gently caressing the ring on my fourth finger, I hoped nobody would notice the wetness of my eyes. Hoped nobody would notice the lines of worry engraved under my eyelids. Hoped nobody would notice the photo clasped between my fingers, the image blurred from years of enduring my tears.
How I wished he was there.
Taking a discreet sip of the little alcohol I’d brought, I tried to mask the grave shroud of regret washing over my face; no one would ever accept me if they knew the truth.
So instead I plastered on a smile, as unfalteringly fake as the cunning manipulation of the very metal that was slit, slashed and stabbed to create the being that basked before us.
Pulling the silk cloth over my shoulders in a pathetic attempt to hide the coarse roughness of my clothes, I waded through the myriad of people surrounding me. Adults. Children. Babies. Their voices rang out like the clanging of church bells above the roaring of the sea. Captivated by the compelling originality of the Titanic, their hot breaths of awe cut through the moisture in the air- swirling towards the sky with the grace and elegance of a lover’s last dance. Their anticipation swiftly accelerated through congenial surroundings. I was overwhelmingly out of place.
This was it.
Yet as absorbing as she was- stretched before us like a swan basking in sunlight with swarms of people at her feet- it was an ugly sort of beauty. There’s beauty like the crackle of fire on a frosty winter night. Like the serenity of the moon on a bright, black sky. Like the gracious bow of a man with a box, a ring, a lifetime of promise. Then there was the Titanic: a supreme impossibility; metal enticed into unnatural shapes, artificially refined to create unparalleled beauty. Breath-taking to observe, yet ugly to study. Enthralled and enchanted, seagulls cackled light-heartedly over her head, oblivious to the bank of dark clouds slunk in the distance.
In that moment, I could think of nothing but the newspaper article I’d read, the words tripping over each other in their haste to be noticed: complete will be the system of safeguarding devices on board this latest of ocean giants that, when she is finally ready for service, it is promised that she will be practically unsinkable and absolutely unburnable”. The ugly beauty. The ocean giant. The passionate promise. Declared unsinkable before she’d ever swum. Yet as the beast regarded me with contempt, part of me already knew it. Knew it was a promise she couldn’t keep, her promise to protect me.
Nonetheless, she was to be my escape from the nightmares haunting me in England. Clutching my worn suitcase, I stepped on board.
How long ago that now seems.
Dominant and sneering, an iceberg rises from the ocean, the true ocean giant, the natural phenomenon. Crack. It whips the Titanic with its cold claws, like an overseer mercilessly punishing his slave. A warped caterwauling slices the air; the Titanic splits from beneath me, her contents pouring into the ocean like blood gushing from a wound. Splinters of ice mercilessly pierce my feet, my fingers, my head. Pulling the limp silk cloth over my shoulders, it wraps itself around me like a child desperate for one last piggyback ride. Spluttering and shrieking, a myriad of other hopeless victims howl in agony, clutching the bodies that lie entwined in their arms- limp and lifeless- pupils unnaturally dilated. I mourn for them: the discarded ragdolls of a broken promise, soon to be consumed by the ocean.
Yet it’s different for me. Although the claws of the Atlantic choke me- black like the ominous cloak of an executioner- I don’t struggle. In the bright blackness of the Atlantic, I writhe in the ocean, utterly frozen. In the bright darkness of the Atlantic, as my eyes roll and mouth froths as if I’m hysterical, an indescribable calmness consumes me. Through all the lies hidden amongst the bright blackness of the Atlantic, a beautiful truth emerges: I will see George soon.
Very soon, indeed.