Drama Sad

The boat cuts through the water, rising and falling, rising and falling as though situated on the chest of the ocean; salt spray makes our faces and skin sticky, bright sun glares, slowly rouging our shoulders and noses and wind wisps through our hair. Susan and Jenny gossip on the bow and Tommy chews my ear about everything I’ve missed this last six weeks while I’ve been away on the mines. I miss months of their lives at a time, so there is a lot I have to catch up on, a lot for him to tell me about. How he kicked the final goal in his soccer semi-finals, how he’d gotten a D in his English essay but a B on his Math’s trigonometry test, how Jenny had beaten his 100 metre sprint time at the athletics carnival but he’d gotten the record for high jump this year, how his chicken eggs had hatched and that he’d named the chicks Josephine, Vladimira, Florence, Ambrosia and Geraldine because he had never met anyone with those names and he wanted his chicks to be unique and how he’d listened to Mum and Liam and hadn’t gotten sent to his room once while I had been away. I feel convicted as always about how much I missed again. Tommy isn’t trying to make me feel bad, I know that, he is simply excited to see his dad but the guilt I feel is always there.

The spray of a big wave catches Susan and Jenny by surprise and they shriek. I chuckle. Jenny shoots me a glare as though I control the size of the waves. If I had that kind of power, I sure wouldn’t be working away all the time. It is our biggest bone of contention. Being sweet sixteen, she understands the necessity of making money and supporting a family but doesn’t see the need for me to be away for so long. It is hard for the heart to comprehend the practical.

Susan also glances at me and taps her wrist. My Susan. Beautiful Susan. Distant Susan. I consider the fact that time shouldn’t matter on a day where sailing to an island is your only plan as I hold up all ten fingers. She nods. Secretive Susan. I have known secretive before.

‘Dad, the island! Look.’

Ahead, a sliver of land peeks above the water with straight trees like green toothbrush bristles pointing skywards. The midnight blue waters give way beneath us to sapphire then azure then turquoise. Another boat is anchored in the protected cove and appears to be floating on air.

‘There’s Uncle Liam’s swag. Can I go to him?’ Tommy asks.

I nod and he dives into the water and swims the last forty or so metres. Liam waits, arms outstretched, on the beach.

‘How’s my favourite adopted nephew?’ I hear him say before I drop the anchor.

‘You have lunch on the go for us?’ I ask, nodding to his campfire from which wafts the aroma of cooking fish, once I’m onshore. ‘What did you catch?’ I grin and he hugs me.

‘Always belly first before the greeting,’ he says slapping me on the back.

‘You’re looking good, fit. Healthy. It’s good to see.’

‘I am man. Had a checkup a while ago and I’m all clear. Hey Jenny, Susan.’ He hugs them, holding Susan a little too long and they kiss each other’s cheeks.

‘Well, you weren’t wrong,’ he grins at me. ‘I’ve got a few whiting on the coals.’

Hours later, when the sky oozes golden light and pink and orange hues, Tommy and I fish from the beach, Jenny reads in a hammock I strung between a couple trees and Susan and Liam are engrossed in conversation as they cook.

‘Did you know that pogonophobia is the fear of beards?’ Tommy asks me. ‘Uncle Liam told me that because he has a big beard, a hipster beard my friend Drew says. Uncle Liam said you had a hipster beard too when you were in uni together but I think I like you with a short beard. It suits you.’

I smile. ‘Thanks mate. I see you’ve already got some hairs sprouting on your upper lip. Let me look. Yep, not bad for a twelve-year-old.’

He puffs up in pride.

‘Does Uncle Liam come around a lot?’ I ask as I add new bait to my hook. Sand and water splash up to my thigh as I cast.

‘Um, yeah, I guess. He’s been coming around more in the last month which is cool because he always kicks the soccer ball with me for a while. He showed me how to juggle the ball between my feet and knees. I’m not very good but I’m getting better.’

Tommy chats on as I half listen with the rod in my hands. I feel a nibble on the line and wait but it disappears. I think of Susan in my arms last night. Wanting but holding back. Then turning away. There is something mournful in her touch, in her kiss, in her eyes. She feels absent. I remember these signs. I have seen this before. I remember the fallout of an empty apartment, a missing toothbrush, a half empty closet, a lonely dinner table, signing divorce papers sent express. Susan had been my rebirth. I glance at them by the fire and wonder.

She makes love to me with all her energy that night, in our tent away from everyone else, as though she is saying goodbye. As though she is trying to leave me with an exquisite parting gift. I notice she is lighter than last time, slender but sure.

The next morning, I see her sitting at the fire with Liam hugging her. I hear him say, ‘You should tell him.’

‘What?’ I ask, coming close. My heart pumps and dread rises within me.

 Tears streak her face when she looks at me and then she holds out her hand. ‘Come.’

We stroll down the beach and I feel I am being led to my execution. With each step my angst increases and I grip her hand tighter feeling at the same time I should wrench free.

We sit then, facing each other, close, she inside my outspread legs, holding my hands.

I break. ‘Please don’t tell me you’re leaving me.’ The image of my first wife closing the door softly behind her hits me.

‘No sweetie. Well, I hope not.’ She pauses and takes a breath. ‘I found out about a month ago I have cancer. The doctor said have a good chance of fighting—’

‘Cancer?’ My mind slows. She isn’t leaving me. What did this word mean? It isn’t a word that should be associated with my family. You heard about people having it but… ‘You have cancer?’

She nods. ‘Yes.’

Shame fills me. ‘A month?’


I was never there for them. Any of them. ‘So, Liam has been—

‘Yes. Because he’s been through this.’

I cup her hands together and kiss them and then I hug her. ‘Forgive me,’ I whisper in her ear. ‘Forgive me for not being there. Forgive me that it’s taken a month for me to be here for you to tell me, for all your lonely moments knowing this. I’m so sorry. I promise I’ll be there for you. I promise,’ I say, hugging her tighter.

‘I know. We’ll get through this. We will.’

‘Do the kids know?’

She shakes her head. ‘I was hoping we could do that together.’

 I nod and kiss her forehead. ‘We will. Together we will.’ 

January 06, 2022 12:29

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Jalissa Cooper
00:16 Jan 13, 2022

So touching and totally amazing. I wish every parent who is absent like that could realize what it does to their family...this is portrayed very well. Great job and happy writing!


Aimee Sargent
04:36 Jan 14, 2022

Thanks so much for your feedback Jalissa.


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